nadal closes in on federer

Posted on April 5, 2008


While a certain young male Serbian tennis player jaws off about being world number one in the near future and crashing the party of two that has long been dominated by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, Nadal — the current world number two — is quietly letting his racket do the talking.

Nadal is discreetly closing in on Federer’s long reign in the number one spot, without fanfare and having to alienate others.

If Nadal wins in Miami tomorrow against Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko in the final, Nadal would just be a little over 600 points behind Federer in the rankings. If he loses, he still gains on Federer, given his performance so far.

And the Spanish-born Nadal does that going into the clay courts season, where he pretty much rules the roost (although on the flip side, he does have a lot of points to defend in those tournaments).

The Nadal-Davydenko match looks about 50:50 right now, with both men bound to be hungry to win. It has been a while since either of them had won a title.

More is at stake for Nadal here, who last won a championship in July 2007. His only hard-court title last year had been at Indian Wells and he would be keen to prove that he has more to his game than just being a clay court specialist.

In 2005, Nadal was in the final of the very same tournament, the Sony Ericsson Open, and looked on track to winning the title when he took the first two sets against Federer, only to have Federer come back to win the next three sets and deny him victory. Nadal would be keen to rectify that experience by taking the title tomorrow.

But Davydenko could similarly be in an uncompromising mood. He is still looking to break out of the cloud of suspicion of having allegedly thrown a match to a much lower-ranked player, in a match-fixing scandal. While he might be cleared soon, a win in Miami would be a great step towards putting that incident behind him.

Davydenko is 0-2 against Nadal, but on a hard court and with his new “magic racket”, his confidence is at a new high, especially after he demolished Andy Roddick for the first time in Miami’s other semi-final match on Friday, despite having lost to the American in all previous five head-to-head meetings.

It could very well be decided by the weather tomorrow. If Miami’s hot and humid spell continues, the sun-loving Spaniard will have the advantage, while the Russian might just wilt away.

So that young Serbian could do all the talking he wants, but it does not look like he is going to be catching up with Federer the more realistic way that Nadal is.

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