Little to encourage Federer and Nadal ahead of U.S Open

MASON, Ohio, (Reuters) – The once dominant top two in  men’s tennis, Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, head into the U.S.  Open with much more than the formidable year of world number one  Novak Djokovic to concern them.

Roger Federer

Both Federer and Nadal exited the Cincinnati Open at the  quarter-final stage on Friday after suffering defeats to Czech  Tomas Berdych and American Mardy Fish respectively.

Whilst neither of those losses can be considered massive  upsets, Fish being an accomplished performer on hard courts and  Berdych a two-time winner over Federer last year, there were  worrying aspects to both losses for the Spaniard and the Swiss.

Nadal, who was knocked out in the second round in Montreal  last week, does not like to make excuses and regularly downplays  injuries, but whether his foot troubles are purely run of the  mill blistering or a more serious problem, he does not appear to  have the sharpness and pace that has been key to his game.
To add to that, he has two nasty burns on the fingers of his  right hand from an accident in a restaurant earlier this week  when he was given a hot plate that left him in agony.

Nadal’s defeat to Fish may also have been influenced by a  hectic Thursday in which he played a three and a half hour  three-setter against compatriot Fernando Verdasco and then kept  his commitment to play in the doubles competition.

Yesterday’s loss aside, the dynamism that is central to Nadal’s  success is not there at the moment and he needs to find it in  the next two weeks if he is to defend his title at Flushing  Meadows.

“Sometimes you are playing well; sometimes you are playing  worse. I am playing a little bit worse now than well, so I  accept the loss and work hard – that’s the only way to come back  to my best level,” said Nadal.

Rafael Nadal

“My movement wasn’t perfect, I made more mistakes than usual  with the forehand. I have to play more inside the court, more  aggressively,” he said.

“I have a few things to improve if I want to be ready for  New York. I am going to work on that. I don’t know if I will be  in perfect condition in New York, but for sure, I will try  everything.”

In contrast, Federer looked fresh and relaxed this week  before coming unstuck against Berdych’s big serve in a repeat of  his losses to the Czech at Wimbledon and Miami last year.

There have been signs that the old Federer, the fluent and  confident player who won with such elegant ease in his heyday,  is not beyond the reach of the 30-year-old.

But if the Swiss is to recapture his old form in time he  would surely expect to be doing better than a quarter-final in  Cincinnati after a third round exit in Canada.

“Last week wasn’t very good. I thought it was okay. It was  nice to get back on the tour and getting some practice in with  top guys and playing some matches,” Federer said. “Now, I  thought this week I was feeling much better.

“I thought I played really well against (Juan Martin) Del  Potro and (James) Blake. Sure, close matches. It’s a quick  court, so you’re not going to be coming out of this tournament  feeling like you have the greatest rhythm in the world,  especially with the guys I played against.

“But all in all I feel okay. I feel better now than I did in  Montréal where it wasn’t a very good match against  (Jo-Wilfried)Tsonga. So at least I have three more matches under  my belt.

“And physically I’m feeling perfect. That’s at least the  positive thing coming out of this tournament.”

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