x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Doha next stop for Federer-Nadal rivalry

The world No 2 said he saw Abu Dhabi and Doha as a chance to try out new shots, adding that he was looking forward to resuming his duel with Nadal in 2011.

Roger Federer rnow heads to Doha following his defeat to Rafael Nadal in Abu Dhai. Marwan Naamani / AFP
Roger Federer rnow heads to Doha following his defeat to Rafael Nadal in Abu Dhai. Marwan Naamani / AFP

Roger Federer will be looking to bounce back from a string of grand slam defeats in 2010 while Rafael Nadal, his biggest rival, is hoping to resume the dominant form that saw him capture the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open titles last year.

A taste of their long-running rivalry was on display in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, when Nadal edged Federer 7-6, 7-6 to defend his title at the Mubadala World Tennis Championships.

Spectators can expect to see much more of the pair in 2011, starting with the ATP season-opening Qatar Open in Doha which begins today.

Before leaving for Qatar, Federer, the world No 2,said he saw Abu Dhabi and Doha as a chance to try out new shots, adding that he was looking forward to resuming his duel with Nadal that will get its first big test at the Australian Open, starting on January 17.

"It's a special Australian Open with me being the defending champion," Federer said. "Obviously the focus is going to be on the two of us. Tennis is really going to be exciting down in Australia."

Nadal said he does not feel any pressure ahead of the Australian Open, even though a tournament victory in Melbourne would make him the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win four major titles in a row.

"It's not extra pressure, for me it's extra motivation," said Nadal, who lost in the Doha final last year to Nikolay Davydenko.

"The pressure is every day to play well and keep winning matches and I don't think [about] winning [the] Australian Open immediately," Nadal said. "You never know what's going to happen since it's going to be a very difficult tournament."

For Nadal, staying healthy will be his top priority. He still grimaces at the memories of last year's Australian Open - where he retired from his quarter-final with a knee injury.

"Health. That's the most important thing. For myself and everybody that's the most important thing," Nadal said before leaving Abu Dhabi. "Without that, the rest of the things are just impossible."

In Doha, Federer and Nadal are the top seeds, ahead of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Fourth-seeded Davydenko is hoping to find his form after a year in which he has dropped from sixth to 22nd in the rankings.

"It's good to be back here in Doha as the defending champion, although I'm no longer the favorite here," Davydenko said. "I'm keen to make my presence felt ... I'm now ranked 22nd and have to make amends."