Nadal to play in Montreal

Nadal

After his two month absence from tennis because of knee injuries, Rafael Nadal will attempt to defend his title at the Rogers Cup in Montreal.

Nadal says on his Web site that he’ll arrive in Montreal on Wednesday to begin preparations for the Aug. 10-16 hardcourt event. He is the defending champion.

Nadal has been out of action with tendinitis in both knees since losing at the French Open on May 31. He also will play in Cincinnati ahead of the U.S. Open, the only Grand Slam tournament he has never won.

Rogers Cup spokesman Louis-Philippe Dorais says organizers expect to hear from top-ranked Roger Federer in the next few days on whether he will play.

This is great news, especially since the U.S. Open is less than a month away. Though this year in tennis has belonged to Roger Federer, it’s been exciting to watch Andy Roddick regain some clout on the court. Since Roddick is pretty much the only male American representative tennis has, that’s the guy I’ll be rooting for. Still, the ATP needs more than two stars. Hopefully Nadal hasn’t lost a step and the Rogers Cup will be a good indication of whether or not he’ll be able to hold his ground at the U.S. Open.

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What does Roger Federer’s win at the French Open really mean?

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Tim Joyce from Real Clear Sports feels that Roger Federer’s recent win at the French Open shouldn’t matter as much as most think. Joyce believes that, because of Rafael Nadal’s absence in the final, Federer doesn’t deserve the high praise.

When a Grand Slam tournament loses its star player and main attraction, there’s often a tendency for a sepulchral mood to cloak the on-court proceedings following such a shock to its system. This feeling usually lasts a day or two before the tournament reboots itself and seemingly gains a new destiny and sense of purpose.

But … would such a victory without having any obstacles – that is to say Nadal – detract from the accomplishment? Yes and no. It’d be patently unfair to diminish the achievement on the grounds that his draw opened up. No one seemed to complain when Agassi beat journeyman Andrei Medvedev for his only Paris crown (but then again Agassi did have to defeat defending champion Carlos Moya in the fourth round en route to the French title). There have been many Slam titles won in the Open era where the eventual champion was the beneficiary of an easy draw. And Roger has after all been to the last three finals at Roland Garros so he’s been ever so close – except in the finals when he has made nary a dent in Nadal’s clay armor. So logic would dictate that he’s due a lucky year, that he’s put in the grueling work on clay and he does have several Masters Series titles on the red dirt.

However, a Federer triumph would lack the drama that this achievement would warrant, in fact demand. Would Nadal finally winning at Wimbledon have been as dramatic and important if he had defeated Djokovic or Murray in as close a contest? No, not even close. The fact that he beat Federer on The Roger’s sacred turf is what made last year’s epic match so eternal and wondrous. It was fitting, correct and poetic that Nadal’s win last year on the sport’s biggest stage came against his chief rival.

I appreciate Joyce’s reasoning as he gives an even-handed approach to Federer’s success. If Federer had faced Nadal in the final, the match would definitely not have gone in three sets, and Federer might not have raised that trophy in the pouring rain. (Who knows, due to the lack of a retractable roof, they may have had to postpone a longer match until tomorrow.) Also, I believe that if Nadal were completely healthy during this tournament, he would have eliminated Soderling and given Federer an excellent effort in the finals.

Nevertheless, this is the best tennis I’ve seen Roger Federer play in a long time. It’s funny, because in the quarter and semifinals he didn’t seem to really come alive until the third sets, when he was behind. In the finals against Soderling he was at the top of his game. He even added a seemingly new drop shot at the front of the net which fooled Soderling all day. He displayed the type of dominance we’re used to seeing in Federer.

Joyce makes an interesting point, though: Nadal’s victory at Wimbledon on Federer’s beloved surface was truly amazing, and competition at it’s finest. Nobody expected Nadal to outmatch Federer in England that day, but he did. To this day, Federer has not beat Nadal in the finals at the Spaniard’s favorite Grand Slam. Because of this, Joyce has a valid argument. Federer was the best player at this year’s French Open, but it is a qualified win. Federer beat Soderling, who had a really tough time against Nadal. Thus, Federer making easy work of Soderling does make one think: Nadal has gotten the best of Federer over the last two years (except at the 2007 Wimbledon) and has dominated at Roland Garros. If Nadal loses to Soderling, something is terribly wrong.

Understandably, this debate can lead to a myriad of statistics that aren’t, in my opinion, practical to tennis. Federer’s older, Nadal’s younger, Federer’s healthy now, Nadal is injured, who was better in their prime, blah blah. Federer played incredibly at this year’s French Open and he is deserving of the championship.

What we should all be looking forward to is this year’s Wimbledon. With Federer’s confidence at a current high and Nadal coming back from giving his knees a break, it should be another beauty. That assumes, of course, that the two meet again. There’s always Andy Murray and one of America’s finest (sarcasm intended) standing in their way.

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