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DEUCE

Scoreboard, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer© Getty ImagesRoger Federer and Rafael Nadal launched the 2010 ATP World Tour at the Souq Waqif in Doha, Qatar.

SWISS REDEMPTION

What’s left for Roger Federer to accomplish? Last year’s storybook season saw the Swiss maestro complete the career Grand Slam with the Roland Garros title, become the all-time Grand Slam titles leader with victory on the hallowed grounds of the All England Club, regain his throne as the ATP World Tour Champion – and on top of that, become a husband and father to twin girls.

It’s almost easy to forget that his 2009 season began with heartbreak at the Australian Open, when a tearful Federer accepted the runner-up trophy after once again coming up short against rival Rafael Nadal, sobbing, “God, it’s killing me.”

This year, the 28-year-old Swiss returns to Rod Laver Arena back in position at the top of the 128-player draw and with a chance for redemption.

Federer’s consistency at Grand Slam tournaments is unparalleled: He comes into Melbourne having reached the semi-finals at the past 22 majors. In addition, he has contested the championship match in 17 of his past 18 Grand Slam tournaments – the lone blemish being the 2008 Australian Open, when he lost to eventual champion Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals.

Success at the year’s first major would move the Swiss closer to Pete Sampras’ all-time record for most weeks at World No. 1, a record he would match should he maintain an uninterrupted reign through the end of Roland Garros. Federer, who will have ranked No. 1 for a cumulative 266 weeks going into the Australian Open, currently stands on the heels of Ivan Lendl (270) and Jimmy Connors (268) at No. 2 and No. 3 on the leader board.

Federer also has another record in sight this season, just one back of Sampras on the list of all-time ATP World Tour Champion titles. His pursuit of a sixth year-end No. 1 finish won't be easy as the playing field between the world’s best – Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Juan Martin del Potro, Andy Murray and Nikolay Davydenko – becomes increasingly level.


DAVYDENKO THE DANGERMAN

DavydenkoAll eyes focused on Federer and Nadal for the launch of the 2010 ATP World Tour season in Doha. But while tennis’ top tandem took to the skies to play the first ever game of tennis aboard a magic carpet, it was World No. 6 Davydenko who was flying high by week’s end.

The unassuming Russian, a quiet mainstay of the Top 10 since 2005, clinched the prestigious Barclays ATP World Tour Finals title to conclude last season and opened his 2010 campaign by winning the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, dramatically saving two match points before edging Nadal in the final.

More impressively, the 28 year old defeated Federer and Nadal en route to each of those title wins – making him just the second player to beat both during the same tournament on two different occasions.

With a nine-match winning streak going into the year’s first Slam, the three-time Australian Open quarter-finalist ranks among the key contenders to watch in Melbourne.


ATP WORLD TOUR RETURNS TO SANTIAGO, NICE

GonzalezThe week after the Australian Open players will disperse to three different continents to challenge for ATP World Tour titles at the SA Tennis Open in Johannesburg, the Movistar Open in Santiago and the PBZ Zagreb Indoors in Zagreb.

Santiago, Chile, home to Fernando Gonzalez (pictured left), will host an ATP World Tour event for the first time since 2000. It is the opening leg of the four-tournament, clay-court ‘Golden Swing’ through Latin America that culminates with an ATP World Tour 500 tennis tournament, the Abierto Mexicano Telcel, in Acapulco. Professional tennis also returns to Nice, France, for the Open de Nice Côte d’Azur, to be contested on clay in the week preceding Roland Garros.

The busy four-month stretch between the Australian Open and Roland Garros also includes five ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tennis tournaments – all crucial stops in the battle to qualify for the elite eight-man, eight-team Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, which returns to London in November after a successful inaugural year at The O2.

The month of March will feature the hard-court BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, before players make the transition to Europe for a trio of clay-court ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments – the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, and the Mutua Madrileña Madrid Open.

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