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Nadal targets eighth title of season in Shanghai

Nadal targets eighth title of season in Shanghai

Rafael Nadal will seek to win an eighth title in a stellar year at the Shanghai Masters this week, but he may have to get past the man he defeated in the U.S. Open final to do so, the in-form Novak Djokovic.
Both players are coming off strong performances this past week, with Nadal capturing the Japan Open title and Djokovic advancing to the final of the China Open. That tournament will be decided Monday after play was stopped by rain Sunday, with Djokovic leading David Ferrer 3-1 in the first set.
Nadal and Djokovic head a quality field at the $3.24 million Shanghai tournament that includes the top 20 players in the world, among them Roger Federer, returning from a four-week break after losing to Djokovic in the semifinals of the U.S. Open, Andy Murray, Robin Soderling, Andy Roddick, and defending champion Nikolay Davydenko.
The sole notable player missing is Juan Martin del Potro, who has struggled in his comeback from wrist surgery, losing first-round matches in Bangkok and Tokyo the past two weeks.
Del Potro said Thursday he is likely to sit out the remainder of the season to deal with "physical problems" not related to his wrist.
In first-round action Sunday, Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine rallied after dropping the first set and falling behind 4-1 in the deciding set to upset 16th-seeded Nicolas Almagro from Spain 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 (3), while Tommy Robredo ousted his fellow Spaniard, Albert Montanes, 6-3, 7-6 (4).
Meanwhile, the only question for Nadal and Djokovic is whether their busy late-season schedules will leave them fatigued for Shanghai, the largest and most lucrative tournament on the Asian hard-court swing.
The 24-year-old Nadal took just two weeks off after the U.S. Open _ where he became only the seventh player to complete a career Grand Slam _ and then fell in the semifinals of a tournament in Thailand to 57th ranked Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. It was the first time in three years Nadal had lost to an opponent ranked outside the Top 50.
This will be the third straight week of competition for Nadal, who also captured the French Open, Wimbledon and three other Masters titles earlier this year.
Djokovic, too, has logged a lot of court time since upsetting Federer at the U.S. Open and rising to No. 2 in the rankings.
Before traveling to Beijing, the 23-year-old helped lead Serbia to a dramatic victory over the Czech Republic in the semifinals of the Davis Cup to set up a final showdown with France in December.
Both players will be tested early in Shanghai, with Nadal facing a possible second-round match-up with Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka, a surprise quarterfinalist at the U.S. Open, and Djokovic eyeing a potential third-round encounter with France's Gael Monfils, who lost to Nadal in the final of the Japan Open on Sunday.
Perhaps the freshest player coming into Shanghai is Federer, who said Thursday in Hong Kong that he'd taken time off after the U.S. Open to work on his conditioning.
"Obviously (Nadal's) a stronger player today than a few years ago but the same counts for me," Federer said. "Even though the ranking has slipped maybe a little bit, I've only had time to improve as well and become physically stronger, mentally stronger."
The 16-time Grand Slam champion could meet American John Isner _ a semifinalist in Beijing last week _ in the second round and Djokovic in the semifinals.
Davydenko will also be hoping to see a return to the form that swept him to victory over Nadal in the Shanghai final last year.
"For sure, I played very good last year," Davydenko said.
The Russian added that he has the confidence to do well again this year, saying if he wins the "first couple of matches, maybe it can be possible to win the tournament."


Updated : 2021-10-16 13:49 GMT+08:00