Late Monday afternoon turned into the Roger and Rafa Show at the Sony Ericsson Open.
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Federer and Nadal, the two iconic, all-conquering players of their generation, have not been as dominant on the tour this year, despite the Swiss opening up with a title in Doha and Nadal reaching the final of the Masters Series at Indian Wells just more than a week ago.
Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling, with three each, have grabbed the bulk of the titles, with Nicolas Almagro mopping up the clay-court season in South America with two of his own plus a final in Acapulco that he lost to David Ferrer. Add a surprise win for Canadian newcomer Milos Raonic at San Jose, an Andy Roddick reprise at Memphis and Juan Martin del Potro reappearing to take Delray Beach, and the two maestros have struggled to get a look in.
But a near-capacity Stadium Court crowd at Crandon Park was given plenty to admire as first Federer and then Nadal produced some trademark shots on their way to completing straight-sets victories. Federer defeated Argentine Juan Monaco 7-6 (4), 6-4, and Nadal swept aside fellow Spanish southpaw Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 6-3.
Federer was pleased with his workout against Monaco, a player he had met only once before, in 2007 at Hamburg.
“Not having played him very often, it was tough to start with,” Federer said. “It being hot and humid, the conditions were as slow as it gets out on a hard court. It’s like clay, really, except you can’t slide. So I tried to mix it up to see how he reacted to shorter rallies, to hit shots shorter and longer rather than laterally. I was able to do that. He struggled a bit with that because he’s a very good rhythm player. I was just giving myself information. If it were to go to three sets, I would see what I could use from the first two sets.”
So that’s what’s going through Federer’s mind when he’s out there on court, looking as if it’s an afternoon stroll. Just soaking up info in case he needs it. This time he didn’t.
There wasn’t much Nadal didn’t know about Lopez, an engaging character who has the reputation of being the man who spends the most time looking at himself in the locker room. He gets teased about that, but his sense of humor failed him when Nadal reached match point by sprinting up from the baseline to reach a drop shot and whipping it away for a winner that nicked the net and dropped over. Lopez couldn’t even raise a smile.