En garde: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer embark on duel for No. 1

8:49 AM ET

As a screen rises on a summer North American hard-court Masters events, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are intent in a hunt for something conjunction prioritized in his quip this year: a No. 1 ranking.

Can we ask for a some-more suitable thesis in this startling year in tennis?

Nadal is ranked No. 2, with top-ranked Andy Murray out of movement since of a hip injury. Should tip seed Nadal make to a semis of a Canada Masters (Coupe Rogers) in Montreal this week, he will land behind atop a rankings. Federer is seeded No. 2 and fewer than 1,000 ranking points behind Nadal. But he can't pass Murray this week.

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  • Rewind to a early partial of this year: As Nadal prepared to lapse to a debate during Acapulco in early March, he vowed that he would not follow a tip ranking. “At my age (then 30; now 31), we don’t play to turn universe No. 1,” Nadal pronounced in a news conference. “If we will be No. 1, great. But we won’t do like we did when we was 22 or 23.”

    Just weeks after during Indian Wells, Federer told reporters: “Rankings is not a priority right now. It’s totally about being healthy, enjoying a tournaments I’m personification and perplexing to win those.”

    That was then; this is now.

    Federer, like Nadal, is healthy, happy and winning. Suddenly, he’s singing a opposite tune. After winning his eighth Wimbledon pretension final month, he told reporters: “[If it’s a] two-way competition between me and Rafa Nadal, we wish it’s me and not Rafa since it means a lot to me to get behind to No. 1.”

    Nadal, who is as advantageous off a justice as he is brazen on it, confirmed his insusceptibility to a rankings emanate when he arrived in Montreal. But that competence be usually since he knows that if he achieves his primary objectives, a emanate will solve itself — in his favor. “I don’t even consider about that now,” he told a ATP website, referring to a No. 1 ranking. “I’m going to keep perplexing to play a approach we did in a initial partial of a season.”

    It sounded roughly as if Nadal is covering his eyes and plugging his ears, fearful to hex his chances. Who can censure him? He’s roughly always finished a complicated lifting of his year in a initial half. Wimbledon, a stage of his career-defining win over Federer in a 2008 final, has been remade from enchanting palace into condemned house. This year Nadal once again unsuccessful to accommodate his seeding (No. 2) there, descending in a fourth turn to No. 26 Gilles Muller.

    Federer, who usually incited 36 on Tuesday, will be a clever favorite to leapfrog over Nadal on a quick tough courts in a entrance weeks. He is 31-9 (2-3 in finals) during a Canada Masters, 42-8 during Cincinnati (7-0 in finals) and 78-11 during a US Open, with 5 wins in 7 finals.

    Nadal is 28-7 in Canada, with 3 titles. He won a usually time he done a final in Cincinnati, where he’s 20-10. He’s 46-10 during a US Open, 2-1 in finals.

    Historically, Nadal has struggled with both damage and his form during a second half. The speculation is that he expends so most appetite and enjoys such fantastic success during a clay-court deteriorate that he simply doesn’t have adequate left in a tank, physically or emotionally, to bark by a long, prohibited U.S. summer.

    Barring a blur by Nadal, a weeks forward are expected to turn a Federer-Nadal lovefest as good as a strife of titans. It’s substantially a good thing for a game.

    “We’re in good positions, we’ve gained confidence, we’re healthy and fresh, and we know how to win large tournaments,” Federer told a ATP, assessing a duo’s chances. He combined that with so many rivals sidelined, it will be most easier for both group to dig over a quarterfinals.

    Way behind when Indian Wells was about to begin, Federer remarkable that he felt his contest would be a success if he done it as distant as a quarterfinals. At a time, Nadal wasn’t even meditative about rankings, never mind sketch to within 4 wins of a No. 1 spot. “It seems distant and near,” Federer pronounced of those times. “I have unimaginable honour for Andy finishing final year No. 1. But it looks like now will be a changing of a guard. Rafa positively deserves it [the No. 1 ranking].”

    Left unsaid: Federer has usually as most a explain on a tip ranking as Nadal. He didn’t have to contend it, though. History suggests he will infer it by his formula in a entrance weeks.

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