April 16, 2009

Not Another Rematch

For the past three years those with tickets to the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters' final have seen basically the same match -- Rafael Nadal has battled Roger Federer for the first big title of the clay-court season every year since 2006, and each time he walked away with the championship.

In those three losses Roger has only taken one set from the King of Clay. And when he took a wild card entry to this year's Masters -- he originally was going to sit out but eventually decided it was too important to miss -- the newly-married, soon-to-be-father was probably hoping to exact revenge.

It didn't exactly happen that way.

Even though his home-life has been thriving, it's been a tough spring for the former #1 tennis player -- after he lost in the finals to Nadal, he suffered a loss in the semis to Andy Murray at Indian Wells and another defeat at the hands of Novak Djokovic in Miami.

It was the first time I remember ever seeing Federer lose his temper or show any signs of frustration in a match. And while he may have kept his cool today, his anxiety must've been running high as he dropped in straight sets to countryman Stanislas Wawrinka in the third round in Morocco.

So if Nadal does in fact make it to his fifth straight final in Monte Carlo, he won't be seeing his arch-nemesis there. Novak is the highest of the remaining seeds, but I have a feeling we could see a rematch of the Melbourne semis. Fernando Verdasco, who plays Nole in the quarters, has won his two career titles on clay and could be making a play for his next trophy.

And if it wasn't already clear it's obvious now that this year's race for men's elite is wide open.

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