Federer welcomes Nadal return, Tsonga bows out

AFP and Reuters, ROTTERDAM, Netherlands

Wed, Feb 13, 2013 - Page 8

Roger Federer welcomed the return to tennis of Rafael Nadal, but will not spend much time worrying about his long-time rival’s progress as he concentrates on his own game at the World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam.

While Federer was making his preparations, there was disappointment on court for third seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as the French player went down to Igor Sijsling of the Netherlands 7-6 (7/3), 4-6, 6-4.

Even 14 aces could not help Tsonga in the two-hour match, with the seed converting only one of eight break-point chances.

Tsonga, a finalist in Rotterdam in 2011, saved a match point in the final game, but lost his serve a few moments later to make a surprise first-round exit.

“This is not my worst moment, but I’m disappointed,” Tsonga said. “I missed four or five of the same volleys on key points. That was the difference. He was serving very well and I was always chasing the score. I didn’t play a bad match, just missed my chances. I was missing on shots that I usually make, but I will keep working hard and try to improve things.”

Tsonga’s compatriot, fifth seed Gilles Simon, moved into the second round with a 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 victory over German qualifier Daniel Brands.

Romanian Victor Hanescu accounted for the week’s first seed with his defeat of No. 7 Jerzy Janowicz 7-6 (7/4) 6-3.

The Pole made a breakthrough last autumn at Paris Bercy by reaching the final after coming through qualifying.

Grigor Dimitrov ended a four-match losing streak with a win over Australian Bernard Tomic 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

Top seed Federer, defending the trophy, said he had arrived relaxed and eager as he plays for the first time since losing a tight Australian Open semi-final to Andy Murray, then taking time off with his family in his homes in Dubai and Switzerland.

“I saw a few pictures of Rafa last week,” said Federer, who joked: “I see he’s still a left-hander — and his shirts looked good.”

However, beyond the obvious natural curiosity, the 31-year-old with 17 Grand Slam titles has plenty on his own plate as he begins a run of events that include the Dubai Open and the Indian Wells Masters next month in California.

“I’m happy to see him back and playing on the [ATP] Tour,” the two-time Rotterdam champion said. “He seems to have good energy. I was surprised he lost a final against a player ranked outside the top 50. I’m sure he got a lot of information about his game last week [in Chile]. He knows now how much strain he is putting on his body and how he is dealing with it.”

After seven months away recovering from tendon damage in his left knee, Nadal lost both the singles and doubles finals at the Chilean Open.

Federer also called for the introduction of biological passports in tennis similar to those used in cycling to detect possible doping.

“A blood passport will be necessary as some substances can’t be discovered right now, but might in the future, and that risk of discovery can chase cheaters away,” the 31-year-old said. “But there also should be more blood tests and out of competition controls in tennis.”

According to figures on the International Tennis Federation Web site, the governing body carried out only 21 out-of-competition blood tests in the professional game in 2011.

Cycling’s governing body the UCI carried out more than 3,314 out-of-competition blood tests in the same year.

The UCI introduced biological passports in 2008 to track any blood changes in riders against an original profile, which could mean they had taken illegal substances.

“I didn’t get tested on blood after the Australian Open and I told the responsible people over there that it was a big surprise for me, but there also will be more funding needed to make all the tests possible and the Grand Slam tournaments should help to finance that, as it is in their best interest to keep the sport clean and credible,” Federer said.

Federer said he had the impression that his sport was clean.

“The past years we had something like one case a year and often it had to do with unintentional mistakes made by players, but even then they should not make those mistakes, and know the rules and live by them,” he said.

SAP OPEN

AP, SAN JOSE, California

Xavier Malisse smashed 18 aces in a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory against Go Soeda in the first round of the SAP Open on Monday.

Malisse, the eighth seed from Belgium, said he was a little rusty in his first tournament since the Australian Open. His serve was working, though, with nine aces in the first set. He even recorded a handful with his second serve.

Malisse is looking for his first title in six years.

Japan’s Soeda won the Hawaii Challenger last month and was playing in his sixth tournament of the year.