Nadal takes a break as Federer goes to work

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The Independent Online

No wonder Rafael Nadal will put his feet up this week while his great rival, Roger Federer, takes on all-comers at the Estoril Open. With less than three weeks to go before the start of the French Open, their clay-court fortunes stand in stark contrast. Nadal has played 10 matches and won them all, claiming two Masters Series titles in the process, while Federer has lost the only match he has played.

Federer was practising yesterday – his hit on an outside court with Rui Machado, the Portuguese No 1, drew one of the biggest crowds of the day in Estoril – while Nadal was able to reflect on his stirring return to form. Having gone 11 injury-troubled months without winning a tournament, the former world No 1 followed up his victory in Monte Carlo a fortnight earlier by beating David Ferrer in Sunday's Rome Masters final.

"I didn't have any problems with my knees all week, which is unbelievable for me," Nadal said. "I probably didn't play as well as in Monte Carlo, but the important thing is winning."

This was Nadal's fifth Rome title to add to the six he has won in Monte Carlo and five in Barcelona. The Spaniard said he continued to surprise himself. "Every time I start the clay season I say to myself that it's going to be impossible this time," Nadal said. "I've won my first two tournaments again, so now we'll see what happens in the next one. I'm going to keep working like I have and play without thinking about winning or losing."

Nadal's final warm-up tournament before Paris will be next week's Madrid Masters, which will also be Andy Murray's next event. Although the Scot has won only one match on clay this year he decided not to add another tournament to his schedule, preferring instead to practise.

However, the top two players in the world rankings will both be in action this week. While Federer plays in Estoril, Novak Djokovic competes in his native Belgrade in a tournament run by his family.

In yesterday's updated women's world ranking list Justine Henin climbed back into the top 20 for the first time since her comeback at the start of the year. The Belgian moved to No 19 following her victory on Sunday in Stuttgart, which was her first tournament title for two years. However, Henin has chosen not to play this week in Rome, where Serena Williams will be making her first appearance since winning the Australian Open.

Laura Robson, aged 16, moved up to a career-high No 254 in the senior rankings after her run to the quarter-finals of an International Tennis Federation tournament in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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