Thanks to his impressive performance in Rome, Novak Djokovic is nipping at the heals of Rafael Nadal for that No. 2 ranking spot, and by this time next week he just might get it.
And the ramifications of such a ranking change are of importance, especially to Roger Federer. Hamburg is the final week before the seedings for the French Open are released, so if Djokovic does get the No. 2 spot this week he will carry that into the seedings for Roland Garros. That means Fed could possibly play the No. 3 ranked Nadal in the French Open semifinals instead of the finals. That said, I’m sure Roger would rather have Rafa stay No. 2 guaranteeing that he would not have to face the Spaniard until the finals.
Imagine Roger and Rafa banging away at each other in the semifinals at the French with a fresher Novak awaiting the winner in the finals. That could be a big advantage for the Serb.
But the way the draw works out this week, it’s really out of Fed’s hands with both Rafa and Novak on the bottom half.
Of course with just about any clay tournament Rafa’s entered into these days, if he’s healthy he’s the man to beat. But is he? Who really knows with his blister issue.
Federer though seems to be healthy and as long as he doesn’t run into a guy who’s engaged or rumored to be engaged (Mardy Fish, Andy Roddick, Radek Stepanek) things should look bright for the Swiss as he sets out for his fifth Hamburg title.
The clay is Hamburg is slower, conditions wetter which suits Federer who I think doesn’t like the instability and imbalance of sliding on slippery clay. Then again the guy has seemingly turned into a clay specialist of late, and even argued that in his loss to Stepanek in Rome the World No.1 that it was hardly a clay court match that he and Steps played.
Federer’s draw is pretty similar to his one in Rome, there’s not much in the way of hurdles until David Ferrer in the quarterfinals. And again, on a slower clay court Ferrer will have more trouble getting the ball by Federer while Fed should be able to get a few more by the Spaniard.
The second quarter also looks rather uneventful with the Nikolay Davydenko emerging. Richard Gasquet’s the next highest seed but the Frenchman hasn’t seemed to have recovered from his Davis Cup walkabout.
The third quarter is loaded with James Blake, Nicolas Almagro, Tommy Robredo and Djokovic. The Hamburg court isn’t going to help Blake any while Robredo’s a former champion. But I still have to like Novak getting through.
And again, in the last quarter if Rafa’s on his A-game he gets through, gets over on Novak (with the winner getting No. 2?) and takes care of Federer in the final. I’ve said it before I think Novak has the only game to beat Nadal on clay when Nadal is on. But I don’t think that happens here. After the Rome setback Nadal’s got to be out for some blood in Hamburg, assuming of course he’s healthy.
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