Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Federer, Nadal to renew rivalry

Indian Wells, California: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are poised to renew their rivalry in the California desert as they headline the Tennis Masters Series tournament that starts here on Friday.

Switzerland’s world number one Roger Federer arrives to defend his title after falling to Spain’s Nadal last Saturday in the final at Dubai.

Nadal snapped Federer’s 56-match hardcourt winning streak by rallying for a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory, the 19-year-old claiming his 13th ATP Tour title, three shy of Bjorn Borg’s record for a teenager.

With the triumph, the Spaniard improved to 3-1 against the 24-year-old Federer. Nadal also beat Federer in last year’s French Open semi-finals en route to claiming his first Grand Slam title. Even before he left Dubai, Federer was looking ahead.

"I’m pretty much pleased with my performance," he said, "and I now look forward to the hard courts in America." The top 32 men have first-round byes, as do the top 32 women in the WTA tier one event that is also part of the Pacific Life Open.

In his opening match, Federer could face either reigning Olympic gold medallist Nicolas Massu of Chile or Agustin Calleri.

Australian Lleyton Hewitt, runner up to Federer here last year, is seeded ninth. He won back-to-back titles here in 2002-03.

While he comes into the tournament seeking his first title in more than a year, Hewitt posted runner-up finishes recently in San Jose, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada.



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