Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Is Federer on a downward spiral? Not a chance

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TENNIS-MEN/MONTECARLORoger Federer lost 6-4 6-4 to Juergen Melzer in the Monte Carlo Masters quarter-finals on Friday prompting renewed speculation the Swiss master is well past his best. He is down to world number three now having won only one tournament so far this year.

But hang on a minute, this is the probable GOAT we are talking about, you don’t ignore 16 grand slam titles so easily. Here are 10 reasons why Federer might still be able to bounce back from his shaky form.

1. Monte Carlo is clay and the first clay event of the European season. It’s always been his least favoured surface and he had never won the Monaco tournament anyway.

2. There was a nasty wind out there which was causing the clay dust to fly in his face.

Djokovic becomes a Serb-Inator to really fear

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RTR2KS4Y1NOVAKNovak Djokovic’s 26-match hot streak dating back to the end of last year when he helped Serbia win the Davis Cup shows no sign of cooling and even Europe’s slow red dirt will hold no fears for the 23-year-old Serb this year.

Djokovic is certainly no rookie on clay, as his 2008 Rome title underlined, but whereas Rafael Nadal usually chomps his way past rival after rival, Djokovic finds the surface takes a little of the sting out of his game.

Nadal fails to pull off the Rafa slam

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TENNIS-OPEN/Rafa Nadal was stunned 6-4 6-2 6-3 by fellow Spaniard David Ferrer in the Australian Open quarter-finals on Wednesday, ending his quest for a non-calendar grand slam.

A leg injury contributed to the defeat but maybe the task of holding all four majors at once is almost impossible these days, despite Nadal and Roger Federer’s dominance.

Nadal hopes his numbers add up as he chases Rafa Slam

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TENNIS-OPEN/Fourteen days, seven matches, 21 winning sets and at least 126 winning games – that is all that is separating Rafael Nadal from pulling off the “Rafa Slam”.

It all looks simple enough in numbers but reality is that, and as many calculator-bashing accountants will acknowledge, it takes a lot of work to make sure all the numbers add up correctly.

Will anyone gatecrash the Roger-Rafa party in 2011?

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SPAIN/Will 2011 be the year when Rafael Nadal’s stock rises even further? Or will it be the year when Roger Federer will leave Australia with a lighter suitcase? Or will it be the year when someone finally gatecrashes the Roger-Rafa party?

There will be 126 players looking to stop the all-or-nothing battle royale between Nadal and Federer when the Australian Open kicks off in 18 days.

Are there more cons than pros for shortening ATP season?

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federerOne person you will not find moaning about the length of the tennis season is Roger Federer.

While the ATP have trumpeted their decision to reduce the men’s season by two weeks to create a seven-week off-season, the 16-times grand slam champion has shown so far at the ATP World Tour finals that, at 29, he is feeling as fresh as ever.

How important is the Federer-Nadal rivalry for tennis?

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The ATP World Tour Finals are supposed to be a showdown between the world’s eight best players although even before a ball has been hit in anger, the talk of a Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal final showdown has been gathering momentum.   

The Federer-Nadal rivalry has been the lifeblood of tennis since the duo first traded shots at the Miami Masters over six years ago but lately fans have been suffering withdrawal symptoms as the two men have locked horns just once all season.

Nadal success sparks new GOAT debate

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TENNIS-OPEN/Rafael Nadal ticked off another box when he joined an exclusive group of men to win a career grand slam and in doing so re-ignited the debate about whether he or Roger Federer is the better player.

It also strengthens Nadal’s case in the ongoing discussion around the GOAT, or Greatest Of All Time. 

From the baseline: Tricky shot

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A combination photo shows Roger Federer of Switzerland returning a winning shot between his legs while playing against Brian Dabul of Argentina during their opening night match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, August 30, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Trick shots are nothing new for five-time U.S. Open champ Roger Federer.

With five former champs seeing action on day one, it was a spectacular between the legs shot during the second set of his victory over Argentine baseliner Brian Dabul that will dominate talk around the water cooler this morning.

“I’ve only hit a few in my life and two on center court in night session play here in New York,” Federer told his audience. “It’s amazing to share this moment with you guys. Thanks for the ovation and I love it.”

Waiting on royalty at the court of King Rafa

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TENNIS-OPEN/The sun is beating down, the Rue d’Auteuil is abuzz with vocal ticket touts, children clutch their over-sized tennis balls hoping a tennis player – any tennis player or even anyone who looks like a tennis player– will grant them a precious autograph.

The French Open is officially underway at Roland Garros but for now the leafy suburb near the Bois de Boulogne has the feel of a royal gala awaiting the arrival of a monarch. This tournament doesn’t really start until Rafa Nadal returns to the courts he once made his own.

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