Rogers Cup: Rafael Nadal Shakes Off the Rust To Advance

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Rogers Cup: Rafael Nadal Shakes Off the Rust To Advance
Rafael Nadal defeats Stanislas Wawrinka at the Rogers Cup in Toronto

Rafael Nadal defeated Stanislas Wawrinka 7-6 (12), 6-3.

Rafael Nadal scowled less but seemed to grimace more during his first set at the Rogers Cup in Toronto Wednesday evening, facing Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland.  

The first set was tight. Both players suffered from mishits and bad on-court decisions periodically as play continued.  

Neither had played enough tennis on the hard courts to feel entirely at home on the surface. Although Wawrinka did appear at the Legg Mason Classic in Washington D.C. the previous week, where he lost to eventual champion David Nalbandian in the second round. 

Nadal had not competed on tour since the finals of Wimbledon, defeating Tomas Berdych soundly to capture his second Wimbledon crown and his eighth Grand Slam title.  

The main problem going into the match, besides being a little rusty like most of the top seeds, was Nadal’s issue with his knees. According to Nadal’s camp, the Majorcan has battled pain in his knees most of the season, beginning at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami prior to the start of the clay season.

Evidently, Nadal was treated for tendinitis in his left knee during April and planned to have a similar treatment on his right knee after Wimbledon. His movement on court in last night’s contest looked pain free––although it was obvious, at times, that he suffered from timing issues because of the long layoff.

Wawrinka entered the match with little to bolster his hope. He had lost to Nadal all five times they had played. Although the Swiss often competed well against Nadal, he had never even won a set during their encounters.  

Last night was no exception. Wawrinka played very tough and had his chances to take the first set. Wawrinka held five set points during the opening set, but failed to convert any of them.  

Nadal eventually won the tiebreak 14-12 in a very thrilling opening set. The truth is that even though the Swiss battled hard, you had the feeling that Nadal would win despite his forehands sailing long and his few shanks and mishits.  

It seemed that Wawrinka was convinced of that as well. He went away during the second set, which Nadal won comfortably—at least, more comfortably than the first set.

Since Sam Querry lost his match going in, Nadal will play South African Kevin Anderson Thursday evening. The Majorcan will be hoping to recapture this title which he has won twice, in 2005 and 2008.

Novak Djokovic defeated Julien Benneteau 7-5, 7-5.

The extremely hot conditions really bothered Djokovic Wednesday, as he struggled against the Frenchman Benneteau during the heat of the day. The trainer was called out, but Djokovic managed to escape with a win after a hard-fought contest.

It looked “iffy” for the Serb, who seemed exhausted and found breathing difficult in the sultry heat, dropping his serve four times in the course of the match. After two hours, however, Djokovic prevailed and lived to fight on in the next round, where he will face Victor Hanescu Thursday late afternoon.

Djokovic won this title in 2007 and will be hoping for a repeat in 2010. Should he fail to advance beyond the third round he is in danger of being passed by Roger Federer for the No. 2 ranking. They are within 110 points of each other.

Andy Murray defeated Xavier Malisse 7-5, 6-2.

Another tight first set for one of the top seeds as Murray battled the Belgian Malisse, eventually taking the first set 7-5 in a little over an hour. Murray, ranked No. 4 in the world, won this title last year and is hoping to do well here again in 2010.  

Should the Scot fare poorly at the Rogers Cup, Robin Soderling has the opportunity to take over the No. 4 spot if the Swede can go on to win the event.  

Last year Murray met and defeated a red hot Juan Martin del Potro in the finals of the Rogers Cup in Montreal. That helped to propel Murray into a brief stint as the No. 2 player in the world when Nadal fell out of the top two rankings.

Now Murray is fighting to stay in the top four after a less than spectacular year.

The next opponent for Murray is the talented and unpredictable Gael Monfils. There are no easy matches in these Masters Events.

David Nalbandian defeated Tommy Robredo 6-3, 6-0

Nalbandian continued his red-hot winning streak by defeating Tommy Robredo while hardly breaking a sweat.

The match of the day on Thursday should come when Robin Soderling squares off against the Argentine, who seems to be on a mission to cut through the underbrush of his low rankings as he marches back into the top 20. Nalbandian is playing extremely well and will be a handful for the Swede.

The Rogers Cup is the first big test for the top seeds as they make their way into New York. For the top four, it is an opportunity to get rid of the rust and fine-tune their games as they head into the U.S. Open, the last slam of the year. 

While all of the top seeds have survived their opening round matches, it is interesting to note that no seeded players remain to face Nadal in the quarterfinals. While Murray inherited the toughest quarter left for the top four with Soderling and Monfils alive along with the dangerous Nalbandian. 

In Djokovic’s quarter, Nikolay Davydenko, seeded No. 6 and coming back from injury, is still alive. Roger Federer has Tomas Berdych, seeded No. 5, as a potential quarterfinal opponent assuming both survive today’s matches.

Should be a great day of tennis ahead.

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