Expatica news

On the volley

10 January 2008

MADRID – This weekend marks the kick-off of the tennis season’s first Grand Slam: the Australian Open. The Spanish Armada finds itself in a good position to do some shaking up on the Aussie hard courts as the only country with two top-10 players – it would have been three had Tommy Robredo not been recently relegated to the 11th ranking after Andy Murray’s title win in Qatar.

In Melbourne, all eyes will undoubtedly be on world number two Rafa Nadal, after his marathon four-hour semifinal win over compatriot Carlos Moyà at Chennai two weeks ago served to partially abate rumours that his ongoing foot injury is reeking havoc on his physical condition. (Although he was left so exhausted he wasn’t able to put up much of a fight in the next day’s final.)

ATP’s number 18, Moyà, is also on the radar, but his strong semifinal loss in Chennai was followed by a surprising second-round defeat at a Sydney exhibition yesterday to Argentina’s Agustín Calleri.

After a career-best season, fifth-ranked David Ferrer has become the player on the rise worth devoting some close attention to. Reigning champion and first seed at the Auckland exhibition, Ferrer pulled off a pair of double-header wins yesterday, first beating Spaniard Óscar Hernández and then Argentine Sergio Roitman to reach the quarterfinals.

The Spaniard who once classified himself as the "worst player in the top 100," made it to the fourth round of the Australian Open the past two years, which he will be looking to improve on coming off a year that included two tournament wins, a US Open semifinal, and a confidence boost in the form of the runners-up trophy at the Shanghai tournament of the world’s best.

Although Ferrer cruised to the Shanghai final, the predictable six-foot Swiss roadblock waited for him there. Ferrer was humbled by world champion Roger Federer at Shanghai, and the Swiss master and Australian Open title defender will be, as always, the player to beat. Just who will beat him is the question.

Unfortunately for Nadal (who has the chance to earn ATP number-one ranking for the first time ever if he reaches the Australian Open finals and Federer is knocked out before the third round), Argentina’s David Nalbandian, a sizeable threat to Federer, may end up missing the tournament due to a back injury.

The often sporadic Nalbandian beat Federer in the Madrid Masters finals last year, and is always a strong contender for a highly emotional upset.

[Copyright EL PAÍS / KELLY RAMUNDO 2008]

Subject: Spanish news