Federer spares a thought for absent Nadal

Mon Nov 5, 2012 1:48pm EST
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By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - Billed as a showdown between the world's top-eight players, the ATP World Tour Finals got off to a spectacular start on Monday with strobe lights, music and victory for home favorite Andy Murray igniting the touchpaper for eight days of action.

However, the fourth staging of the season-finale besides the River Thames at London's O2 Arena is missing one of its main attractions with Rafa Nadal's injury-enforced absence taking a little gloss off the tournament.

The Mallorcan has appeared in London for the previous three years, reaching the final in 2010 when he lost to old rival Roger Federer, but his recurring knee problems have robbed men's tennis of his ferocious talent for the past six months.

While all the talk might be of Murray's rapidly intensifying rivalry with world number one Novak Djokovic, Nadal is being missed, not least by 17-times grand slam champion Federer.

Some of the most memorable moments of the Swiss maestro's remarkable career have been with Nadal across the net and he was quick to jog people's memories as he prepared for his opening match against Janko Tipsarevic on Tuesday.

"Once a tournament starts, you do unfortunately forget what's happening around you," world number two Federer, bidding for a record seventh end-of-year title and a hat-trick in London, told reporters.

"You do forget those things a little bit. Knowing that maybe the draw is potentially a little easier, there is no denying that because Rafa is a great champion and I'm sure that he is missed by a lot of the fans, which would have made this tournament maybe even more exciting, but then it gives opportunities to one or two more guys.

"It's obviously never the same when Rafa doesn't enter a tournament, but from time to time injuries just do happen, and we all wish him the best so he can return next year."   Continued...

Roger Federer (L) of Switzerland and Rafael Nadal (R) of Spain pose together before their men's semi-final match at the Indian Wells ATP tennis tournament in Indian Wells, California, March 17, 2012. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok