Nadal closes in on #1 after winning Rogers Cup in Toronto (7/08)

    The race for #1 appears a lot closer now for Rafael Nadal after he captured the Rogers Cup in Toronto. His modest demeanor yet ferocious play once again was demonstrated as he lost only one set en route to his second career Rogers Cup and 7th title this year.  The reigning #2 has moved within 300 points of overcoming Federer for the #1 ranking in the world.  His fitness, game improvement and mental toughness overpowers his opponents with incredible fashion.  The only set he lost was to Frenchman Richard Gasquet in a tiebreaker during his quarterfinal match.  Gasquet ended up winning that first set 14-12 with some classic points only to lose the next two sets.  Nadal was relentless as he tore down Gasquet’s game and was in better shape while Gasquet seemed fatigued.  At the press conference, Gasquet not only spoke of how Nadal is the best player on tour now but it took him maybe playing his best set of his career to take that first set.  He narrowly won in the tiebreak, which just goes to show you how difficult it is to beat this Spaniard.

Nadal winning photo 1.JPG 

       Nadal had another tough set vs. the hot playing Andy Murray in the semis but pulled it out and then won the second set easily.  In the Finals, unseeded German Nicolas Kiefer had no chance as Nadal won 6-3, 6-2.  Kiefer pulled off a string of upsets to reach the final.  Once ranked as high as #4 in the world but now about #38, Kiefer took out Fish, Youzhny, Davedenko, Blake, & Gilles Simon to reach center stage on the final day.  That was as far as he would go as Rafa took charge early and controlled the match.  The Frenchman Simon, who won the tourney at Indianapolis the week before, upset Federer in the second round here to continue his strong play. 

     The week was affected by the rain, which caused many delays and some players having to double up.  Marat Safin had to complete his first round match vs. Sam Querrey and then play his second later the same day which he lost to Swiss’s Stanislas Wawrinka.  The tournament featured quite a few other upsets including seeded players Roddick, Gonzalez, Robredo, Stepanek, Verdasco, Berdych, and Ferrer before the quarterfinals.  Number 3 seed Novak Djokovic did not look sharp in his straight set loss to Andy Murray in the quarterfinals.  Djokovic played the top seeded Canadian Frank Dancevic and took the local favorite out in 2 sets.  Dancevic had early injuries this year and has just started regaining his form and promise he showed in 2007.  He beat the tough Croatian Mario Ancic in the first round.  Another Croatian had a better showing as teenager Marin Cilic had two upset victories defeating Robredo and Roddick before losing to Simon in the quarterfinals. 

     There was record attendance at the Rogers Cup despite all the rain.  Most of the top 30 players showed up and a few missed the week due to injuries at this Masters Series Event.  The men’s tournament moves to Montreal in 209 as the cities rotate with the women’s tour in Canada.  It was announced that the Rogers Cup tournament has been renewed till 2111 which was good news all around Canada.

     During the press interviews, Nadal is very humble always giving props to his opponent and never coming across cocky.  He is confident and still says he is #2 in the world as the rankings show even though many players on tour say he is the best and most feared now.  The US Open hard court tour moves to Cincinnati next week.  The summer is heating up as the Olympics start on August 8th followed by the US Open.  The Countrywide Classic in Los Angeles, Legg Mason in Washington DC and New Haven, Connecticut tournaments take place for players not going to Beijing before the last Grand Slam of the season in New York. 

     The doubles came down to the 2 best teams in the world with Canadian home favorite Daniel Nestor and Serbian partner Nened Zimonjic defeating the #1 seed Bryan Brothers in the Super Tie break after each team split the first two sets.  The Bryans were up 6-3 and serving before the momentum swung and Nestor/Zimonjic won the last 7 points to close out the match and win the final.  I asked the twin brothers after the match if fatigue was a factor.   They told me it was very tough scheduling as they played a late Saturday night match while their opponents played early in the day.  They only had around 11 hours after their semi final victory ended.  The tournament is minimum 45 minutes away by car where the player’s hotel is located.  They also didn’t want to take anything away from their rivals as they congratulated and complimented them quite a bit.  The Bryans are a class act team win or lose.

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Click Here for Photos by Kelly Doherty