Top dogs Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal return to action today in Toronto for the first time since their epic encounter at Wimbledon. Expectations for Fed remain high for this North American hardcourt swing, whereas for Rafa, judging by some of the comments I’ve read maybe not so high.
Either way, this is a very important stretch for both players. For Federer, we’ll see just how much damage, if any, that loss at Wimbledon did to his psyche. For Rafa, it’s the reverse. While his ranking may not reflect it (yet), Nadal has to be feeling on top of the World, but can the Spaniard maintain the mojo for another six weeks and finally get to No. 1?
Taking a peak at the Toronto draw it’s easy to see that it’s fully loaded. And it wouldn’t shock me to see another wacky, Mardy Fish-like finalist emerge. With the grind of the hardcourt season upon us and the condensed schedule due to the Beijing Olympics, guys will have to conserve their energy this summer. Where they decide to conserve it is the magic question because no one is running the table (that is winning everything they enter, US Open included).
Of all the top guys in the Toronto field I think defending champ Novak Djokovic has the easiest path. Already by Frank Dancevic last night, Novak shouldn’t be bothered much by Fernando Verdasco, who is actually playing some of his best tennis right now, or from Andy Murray.
I also think Nadal’s section is pretty cozy. Jesse Levine today, then Tomas Berdych or Igor, both of whom are very good players, but Andreev is better on the clay and Berdych seems to plays his best against guys ranked below him. And then I’m not sure if either Richard Gasquet or David Ferrer has the belief right now to beat Rafa.
Roger’s draw though looks somewhat dicey. Gilles Simon could present some problems tonight. Fernando Gonzalez could as well. As for Andy Roddick, the fact that Nicolas Mahut had a fair share of break chances doesn’t bode particularly well for the American. He won’t get by Federer playing like he did yesterday, and he very well might not get by Marin Cilic or Tommy Robredo in the next round.
In the Nikolay Davydenko section, eight guys remain and I could see any one of seven getting through – sorry Jonas! Hard to pick a favorite but if I had to maybe Mikhail Youhzny, then James Blake then Dmitry Tursunov.
But back to the main storyline, Nadal and Federer. I know we are really at the starting gate of the hardcourt season, but I feel if Nadal destroys Levine today, which on paper he should, it’s a very good sign for Rafa going forward. Somewhat the same for Federer, who’s playing a far tougher foe in Simon. I think Simon could get a set, but if Roger really plays well or blows him up then I think Fed’s in good shape for the summer and who knows, the Rogers Cup may really end up being Roger’s again.
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