It's the No. 1 obsession

STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:34 AM ET

Two weeks after the dramatic spectacle that was Wimbledon, Roger Federer has yet to find the time or the stomach to watch the match on tape.

Maybe he won't ever watch it. Maybe he can't.

"I tried to get away from it all," said Federer, not comfortable playing the part of second best in the greatest tennis match he has never seen. "I tried to forget, really, the loss ... I didn't see a point."

He tries to forget. We strive to remember. He wants to be the undisputed heavyweight champion of tennis and we want to see Federer and Rafael Nadal, this week, and maybe every important tennis week, the same way we once cared so much to see Muhammad Ali fight Joe Frazier.

Only Federer now grasps on to the semantics of the No. 1 player ranking in the world, a computer that places him first on the season. He hardly elaborates when talking about Nadal. He hardly wants to talk point by point, tiebreak by tiebreak, about the four-four 48-minute athletic dance he had with the Spaniard. He won't put the one-time Wimbledon champion on the same plane as him, even if he came away second best at the French Open and at the All-England Club.

He won't compare the feeling of playing Nadal with the feeling he once experienced from matches against Andre Agassi or Pete Sampras. It's too soon for that.

"When I play against him, it's not like I was playing Agassi, Sampras, but it definitely becomes more and more special the more times we play against each other," Federer said.

This is a huge week for tennis in a busy Toronto. The best have come out to play at the Rogers Cup Canadian Open. Federer is here. Nadal is here. Novak Djokovic is here. Andy Roddick is here. This is a Grand Slam field without a championship of equal significance.

Federer may prefer to not see Nadal this week, but that is clearly what we want. In a shorter three-set format. On a hard-court without the bad bounces of grass or clay. On a surface that should favour Federer. That is what makes this week so damn interesting.

Nadal crushed Federer at the French Open and had much the better of him in the first two sets at Wimbledon before the two began slugging it out on Centre Court. So, what happens next in this adventure? This is our novel. We need the latest chapter.

"I enjoy playing against him (Nadal) to some degree," a very honest Federer said. Loosely translated: He enjoys playing him when he wins. For Federer, losing is never an option.

"I mean, it's always good to have a rival," he said. "But playing him in a fair play match, in surroundings that are unbelievable like at Wimbledon or other tournaments, it is definitely a thrill for me."

It's just more of a thrill when he gets the big trophy, which he is used to. Not that long ago, Federer had this impenetrable air about him. He didn't just win his matches: He controlled the tempo, conducted the orchestra, so to speak, when he played. Every tournament was his to lose.

Then along came the almost gorgeous and certainly sleeveless Nadal. Now comes the question of who really is the best in the world today.

Before Nadal won Wimbledon, that was not even a question. It couldn't be, until Federer was beaten on his own grass. Now, in a summer with the Rogers Cup leading into the Olympics leading into the U.S. Open, there will be answers.

When asked if he now is chasing Nadal, instead of the opposite, Federer deferred to his No. 1 ranking in the world.

"I guess I'm chasing another Grand Slam title after he snatched the last two," he said. "But in the rankings, he is still chasing me."

It depends what happens this week and in Beijing and at the U.S. Open. Three events. Three opportunities for more history to be made. By then, we'll know who is No. 1, no matter what any computer says.


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