Nadal determined to pick 'em

DAVE FULLER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:46 PM ET

The only luck Rafael Nadal believes in is the kind you deal yourself.

With Roger Federer seeded No. 3 for Monday’s start of the 2010 Rogers Cup, there was only a 50-50 chance Nadal, the No. 1 player in the world, could avoid facing his Swiss nemesis in the semifinals, should each advance that far.

Figuring Nadal might be the superstitious sort, tournament director Karl Hale offered to make the first pick in Friday’s tournament draw, held at Horizon’s restaurant atop the CN Tower. But the easy-going Spaniard would have none of it. Hale offered again. Same response.

“I’m here to serve as this (drawmaster),” Nadal said, before blindly selecting Andy Murray’s name, guaranteeing the only way Nadal and Federer will meet is if they both reach the final.

While that’s a big deal for tennis fans, Nadal, playing his first tournament since winning Wimbledon on July 4, insisted the only opponent he focuses on is the one he’s going to face next.

That, as it turns out could be Niagara Falls native Frank Dancevic, who takes on Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka in the opening round, with the winner playing Nadal on Tuesday. Dancevic, Canada’s top men’s player the past four years, only recently returned to competition following back surgery and nine months of rehab.

Meanwhile, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, Serbian Novak Djokovic, will play France’s Julien Benneteau, or one of Sunday’s qualifiers in his first match on Tuesday.

Possibly the unluckiest player in Friday’s draw was the No. 10 seed, Spaniard David Ferrer, who will face Argentina’s David Nalbandian, ranked No. 3 in the world in 2006, in Monday’s first round. North York’s Peter Polansky couldn’t catch a break either, drawing No. 13 seed Jurgan Melzer of Austria in his opening match. The other Canadian guaranteed a spot in the tournament, Thornhill’s Milos Raonic, will play Romanian Victor Hanescu who is currently ranked 53rd on the ATP Tour.

Nadal, who will also play doubles with Djokovic at the Rogers Cup, insisted the tendinitis in both his knees shouldn’t be a problem heading into the hard-court season — culminating with the U.S. Open at Flushing Meadows in late August. It’s the only Grand Slam event the 24-year-old has never won.

“I’m feeling confident with my body (right now),” Nadal said. “I’m not thinking about my body, I’m thinking about tennis. Right now, my body is in perfect condition.”

He’s feeling so good, in fact, that he gladly teamed up with Djokovic for the doubles competition, figuring he needs to play more tennis after being off so long.

“You can improve a lot of things by playing doubles,” Nadal said. “I’m excited about playing with Novak because he’s one of the most talented players in the world.

Asked about the possibility of facing Federer, rather than Djokovic, in Sunday’s final, Nadal who won the Rogers Cup in 2005 and again in 2008, didn’t much care who he meets — as long as he’s in the final, himself.

“The top 45 players in the world are here, so no match is going to be easy,” he said. “I don’t think about Roger or (Andy) Roddick. I think about my first match.”

Scotland’s Murray, who reached the final of this year’s Australian Open, will play in an exhibition match Saturday, 2 p.m., at the Rexall Tennis Centre at York University. Admission is free and parents are encouraged to bring their kids.

Tournament qualifying continues on Sunday at the Rexall Centre, with Monday’s first matches beginning at 11 a.m.

dave.fuller@sunmedia.ca


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