Simon Reed

Rest of 2010 could belong to Federer

Simon Reed

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The current Shanghai Masters is the first time this season when the top 20 players in the world are all playing. However, I'm not sure there is a lot we can learn from an event like this.

Having said that, the man I think to watch this week is Roger Federer. He is starting to play better and I felt he proved that at the US Open. I think he played his best match all year against Novak Djokovic in New York in the semi-finals even though he lost.

I don't think he will ever again be quite the player that used to dominate the sport, but he looks back to being 85 to 90 per cent of what he once was, and I for one wasn't sure he could even get back to that level.

So I'll be very interested to see what he comes up with this week and until the end of the season.

Rafael Nadal might be about to start going through the process that Federer has gone through over the last few years where it becomes all about the Grand Slams for him.

Nadal will never not try, but I think he is going to learn to target the big four events more and more to such an extent that Slams will be his only goal from here on in.

When you think about how Nadal approaches his matches, unless he is 100 per cent into it, he can potentially be picked off, so I wouldn't be surprised if he lost to, for example, Andy Murray in the semi-finals, but come the Australian Open a defeat like that would not mean a lot.

This is the time of the season when those players outside of the elite group can make a bit of an impact, as we saw at the Tour Finals last year when Nikolay Davydenko beat Juan Martin Del Potro in the final and Robin Soderling also made the semis.

It might be slightly different this year though as I think Federer will be really up for Tour Finals in London, perhaps more so than for any other event he has played outside of a Grand Slam.

I just sense he is starting to feel better about his tennis, especially with Paul Annacone now his coach; it looks as if he is enjoying himself again; and he is relishing being the hunter which is something he hasn't been for a long time.

The focus of the tennis world is now firmly on Nadal and Federer will enjoy that in a way, as he has had to cope with being the top dog for so long.

Top sportsmen always have this siege mentality in them that no matter how much they have won, they keep wanting to prove people wrong.

People like for me have been saying Federer is in decline for the last two years or so, whether I'm right or wrong is for other people to judge. I do think the general feeling is that he is not now the player he was, and he will never be at that level again, but that will act as a big motivational tool for Federer. He will use all the criticism to his advantage and enjoy the fact that the pressure is now all on Nadal.

When it comes to a Grand Slam meeting between Federer and Nadal, and it will still only ever be a semi-final or a final, well I'm firmly a Nadal man now until I'm proved wrong, but in a tournament like this in Shanghai, and then also in London later in the year, it will mean more for Federer. He needs to try and end the year on a real high after what has been a difficult campaign by his high standards.

I haven't put any money on this tournament in Shanghai, but If I did, I'd probably put it on Federer.

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