Nadal Edges Closer To Federer Showdown
by Matt Fitzgerald|
World No. 1 Rafael Nadal continues to impress on serve at Crandon Park, defeating countryman Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 6-3 in the third round of the Sony Ericsson Open. In the process Nadal moved closer to a potential semi-final showdown with arch rival Roger Federer.
Nadal, the two-time Miami finalist, is yet to drop serve at the tournament and did not face a break point Monday against his fellow left-hander. “I served well for moments, much better than Indian Wells,” Nadal said after his win.
“I think I played with the right rhythm. It’s always difficult to play against Feli, because it’s not comfortable. He plays slice, he plays aggressive, he has a fantastic serve… he doesn't want to play long points.”
Nadal broke his friend in the seventh game of the match to go up 4-3 and ended the set with another break. The No. 1 seed capitalized on his lone break point opportunity in the second set, enough to seal the victory in 78 minutes. “I think I played a solid match in general. I played good shots, very good passing shots,” said Nadal.
This was the ninth meeting between the two Spaniards and Nadal increased his head-to-head advantage over Lopez to a 7-2 mark. Regardless of their friendship, Nadal’s frame-of-mind was unaffected.
“I think nothing changed, because when you are on court, you're on court. You compete, and nothing is new for us. We are very, very good friends. We had dinner yesterday together, so this is normal,” expressed Nadal.
“That's the sport. That's competition. One player has to win; the other one has to lose. And [we] accept both things. We were talking in the locker room.”
In the fourth round, Nadal plays the winner of No. 15 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and 21st seeded Alexandr Dolgopolov. Whomever his opponent is, Nadal is looking to build on his runner-up appearance at Indian Wells last week. “Last week's final was a very important result for me, and I have to play well here to keep improving the situation in the race, to be in good position when the clay season starts,” Nadal said.
With a plethora of points to defend after Miami, Nadal is fully aware of the tussle he’ll have with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer for the No. 1 ranking, but is looking at the situation with a positive outlook. “I know I have to defend a lot of points, but seriously, I don't feel that I have to defend the points,” reckoned Nadal.
“I feel in every tournament that I am going to play I have the chance to win points, not to lose points.”
A win against Federer would place Rochus into the quarter-finals of an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event for the first time since Hamburg in 2003. It’s a tall order, considering the Belgian has never defeated the 16-time Grand Slam champion in seven career meetings.
“Like everybody, I need to serve well… try to be aggressive. Play my game to be in the court, not too far from the baseline,” evaluated Rochus. “It’s important for me to put in a lot of first serves, otherwise there will be a lot of pressure on my second serve, especially against one of the best players in the world.”
Federer and Rochus have been friends since they were 12, and the Swiss expects Rochus to leave everything out on the court. “He has an amazing touch and feel out on the court, great playing sense, when to play which shot,” Federer said.
“Even though he's a small guy out there, he knows how to use his weapons and his feel. He's a great tactician. I enjoy playing against him. It's a different kind of playing style. I'm looking forward to the match against him… it's going to be a nice match, I'm sure.”
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