MS-Canada Preview: Americans Try and Disrupt Federer-Nadal Rivalry

Posted on August 6, 2007

Last week the Americans finally got involved in the US Open Series, the lead-up series of events prior to the US Open, when Andy Roddick beat break-out serving giant John Isner in the final at Washington.

The 6-foot-9 Isner's giant serving and sparkling touch at the net had fans of American men's tennis salivating for another potential Top 10er, though Isner's strengths cover for some glaring weaknesses in his game, namely his return of serve, general anticipation from the baseline, and a willingness to bunt his groundstrokes rather than be aggressive.

Roddick took out the giant, who is only months removed from college at Georgia, after Isner set an Open Era record by winning five straight matches 7-6 in the third, downing luminaries such as Tim Henman, Tommy Haas and Gael Monfils. Isner gets a much-needed and deserved rest this week as his ranking is far too low to gain entry to this week's Masters Series-Canada.

Now that an American has finally won a title three weeks into the series that bears their name, the test really begins this week in Montreal at the Masters Series-Canada where the frontrunners Roddick and James Blake go up against the two players who have opened a large gap between themselves and the rest of the tour -- Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Federer and Nadal have won between them 18 of the last 20 Masters Series events they both participated in. Federer is making his first appearance since winning Wimbledon.

Federer will have a few testers on his way to the semifinals, after a bye opening against a big server in either "Dr." Ivo Karlovic or Max "The Beast" Mirnyi. Possibly looming in the third round is No. 13 seed Andy Murray, who has a potentially tricky opener against the slumping-of-late Robby Ginepri of the U.S.

In the quarters Federer could face Blake, who after an opener against Austria's Jurgen "Tuna" Melzer would face the winner of the battle of former No. 1s in Lleyton Hewitt and Juan Carlos Ferrero.

In the second quarter, No. 4 Nikolay "All In" Davydenko and No. 6 seed Fernando "Gonzo" Gonzalez are the favorites to battle for a semifinal spot. Davydenko is slated to meet No. 14 Mikhail Youzhny in the third round, and Gonzo has No. 12 Tommy "I Can't Believe I Lost to That Giant American" Haas slated after a bye and an opener against either Radek "Mr. Hingis" Stepanek or Jonas Bjorkman.

No. 3 Novak Djokovic is the highest seed in the third quarter, where No. 5 Andy Roddick is the Serb's potential roadblock to a semifinal meeting with Nadal. Djokovic opens after a bye against either Dmitry Tursunov or Nicolas Kiefer. Roddick after a bye will square off against French veteran Arnaud Clement or Canadian wildcard Philip Bester. A Djokovic-Roddick quarterfinal meeting is no guarantee in the third quarter as floaters abound, including former No. 1 Carlos Moya vs. Marcos Baghdatis in a first-round meeting (winner to face No. 10 Tomas Berdych), and No. 16 David Ferrer against former year-end Masters Cup winner David Nalbandian in a potential second-round meeting.

Nadal is the favorite to come out of the bottom quarter -- after a likely quarterfinal meeting against No. 8 seed Richard "Baby Fed" Gasquet. The world No. 2 Spaniard also has a very difficult draw typical of a Masters Series event, opening against either the former No. 1 Marat Safin or the streaking Swede Robin Soderling, then facing in the third round one of a formidable trio in No. 16 seed Guillermo Canas, Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu, or Mario "Baby Goran" Ancic who makes a long-awaited return from injury and illness.

Last year's final was a further coming-out party for Gasquet, who was defeated by Federer in three tough sets 2-6, 6-3, 6-2. The world No. 1 Bryan brother are the defending doubles champions.