Dream Cup final swirls away

He was touted to reach the Rogers Cup final against top-seeded rival Roger Federer, but it is not...

He was touted to reach the Rogers Cup final against top-seeded rival Roger Federer, but it is not to be for No. 2 Rafael Nadal, who lost to Tomas Berdych 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 yesterday. (Toronto Sun/Stan Behal)

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

About that dream matchup everyone was looking forward to for the Rogers Cup final on Sunday ...

Oh, never mind.

With brisk winds swirling through the bowl that is the Stadium Court at the Rexall Centre yesterday, the aspirations of promoters and tennis fans alike for a Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal championship match were blown away by, of all people, a Dominik Hasek fan named Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.

With the crowd still in shock at the 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 upset posted by Berdych, Nadal, the defending Rogers Cup champion and world's second-ranked player, waved politely to the crowd and disappeared down a dark corridor.

And with that, the 2006 Rogers Cup became the Roger Federer Show.

So, what else is new?

EPIC ERA

In a sport thirsting for a rivalry reminiscent of the epic John McEnroe-Jimmy Connors-Bjorn Borg era of three decades ago, the likes of Nadal, Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick have all taken runs at Federer the world's top-ranked player only to find themselves unable to consistently stay at the Swiss star's level.

Of course, at one point last night there were fears that Federer might be knocked off as well, when he lost his first set of the week during his evening match against Dmitry Tursunov of Russia.

But the top seed and world No. 1 eventually overcame both his opponent and a scary tumble to post a 6-3, 5-7, 6-0 victory to advance to the quarter-final today against Belgium's Xavier Malisse.

Asked about Nadal's loss earlier in the day, Federer was not surprised at the outcome.

"I wasn't thinking about a rematch against (Rafael) because the road to the final is so long," said Federer, who met Nadal in the finals of the French Open and Wimbledon earlier this year.

As for his wipeout on the court, Federer was breathing a sigh of relief.

"I was pretty happy it wasn't worse," he said. "I could have hurt an elbow or a knee. It just happened to be perfect. Because we are not in a contact sport, we are not used to it."

Nadal, meanwhile, was forced to go back on to the court less than two hours after his singles loss for a doubles match with partner Feliciano Lopez. The result was the second loss of the day for the Spaniard, this time by a 7-6, 6-4 score.

Not quite the way he wanted to depart Toronto.

"It's always the same question we get: 'You are going to play Roger in the final,' " Nadal said. "But we understand better than you. We understand that there are 64 players in the draw, not just two.

"It's okay. I can't play every week in the final."

Nadal had not played a competitive tournament in a month -- since losing to Federer in the Wimbledon final -- but refused to use his inactivity nor the blustery conditions on the Stadium Court as an excuse.

"I didn't feel my best, especially with my forehand," he said. "I would hit the ball 10 times and start losing the feeling in my (left hand)."

After thanking the Canadian fans for their unwavering support, the Spaniard waved to the media before leaving the interview room.

"See you next year," he said.

Meanwhile, No.4 Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia lost 6-4, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (3) to Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, leaving Federer as the only one among the top 12 seeds still playing.

Also advancing were Finland's Jarkko Nieminen, Jose Acasuso of Argentina, Richard Gasquet of France and Great Britain's Andy Murray.


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