Federer, Nadal set to resume rivalry in Doha

January 2, 2011 01:51 PM
DOHA, Qatar (AP) - Roger Federer will be looking to bounce back from a string of Grand Slam defeats in 2010, while his biggest rival, top-ranked Rafael Nadal, is hoping to resume the dominant form that saw him capture titles at the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open.

Spectators can expect to see much of the pair in 2011, starting with the season-opening Qatar Open in Doha that begins Monday.

The latest installment in their long-running rivalry was on display Saturday, when Nadal edged Federer 7-6, 7-6 to defend his title at the invitational World Tennis Championships exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi.

Before leaving for Doha, the No. 2-ranked Federer said he saw Abu Dhabi and Doha as opportunities to try out new shots, adding that he was looking forward to resuming his duel with Nadal. The first big test will come at the Australian Open, where the 29-year-old Swiss is the defending champion.

``It's a special Australian Open with me being the defending champion,'' Federer said. ``Obviously the focus is going to be on the two of us. Tennis is really going to be exciting down in Australia.''

Nadal said he doesn't feel any pressure ahead of this year's Australian Open, even though a tournament victory there would make him the first man to win four major titles in a row since Rod Laver pulled off a calendar Grand Slam by claiming all four in 1969.

``It's not extra pressure, for me it's extra motivation,'' Nadal said, who lost in last year's Doha final to Russian Nikolay Davydenko.

``The pressure is everyday to play well and keep winning matches and I don't think (about) winning (the) Australian Open immediately,'' Nadal said. ``You never know what's going to happen since it's going to be a very difficult tournament.''

For Nadal, staying healthy will be a key. He still grimaces at the memories of last year's Australian Open - where he retired from his quarterfinal with a knee injury, the lone blemish on his 25-1 Grand Slam record in 2010.

``Health. That's the most important thing. For myself and everybody that's the most important thing,'' Nadal said after winning in Abu Dhabi. ``Without that, the rest of the things are just impossible.''

Federer and Nadal are the top seeds in Doha, ahead of Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Fourth-seeded Davydenko is hoping to find his form after a year in which he dropped to 22nd in the rankings from sixth.

``It's good to be back here in Doha as the defending champion, although I'm no longer the favorite here,'' Davydenko said. ``I'm keen to make my presence felt. ... I'm now ranked 22nd and have to make amends.''

In their first-round matches, Federer plays a qualifier while Nadal plays the 103rd-ranked Karol Beck of Slovakia.