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Nadal, Del Potro Advance In Contrasting Fashion; Djokovic To Face Roddick

Montreal, Canada

Novak Djokovic© Getty ImagesNovak Djokovic captured the Rogers Cup title in 2007.

Following a shortened opening match at the Rogers Cup, World No. 2 Rafael Nadal closed out a proper victory on Thursday in Montreal as he defeated German Philipp Petzschner 6-3, 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tennis tournament.

A well-rested Nadal, who had played just seven games Wednesday when David Ferrer retired from their match, got off to a confident start against the 45th-ranked Petzschner as he broke his opponent’s first service game in each set. Petzschner dropped serve for the third time with a double fault to make the score 5-2 for Nadal, and the Spaniard wasted no time in putting the match away in the next game.

Nadal was pleased with his footwork, though he said there was still room for improvement: "I need more matches to get the rhythm, the physical rhythm and tennis rhythm, because I move a little bit better. But at the same time sometimes the position wasn't perfect. I need to adjust a little bit more the legs, the foots to play some shots."

The 23-year-old Spaniard is playing in his first tournament in more than two months, sidelined since Roland Garros with tendonitis in both knees. During that time, Nadal fell from the top spot in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings after Roger Federer reclaimed the Wimbledon title, and he stands in danger of dropping one more spot dependent on his result this week. Should World No. 3 Andy Murray win the title, or reach the final and face an opponent other than Nadal, the Briton would break the 1-2 stranglehold of Federer and Nadal at the top of the Rankings leaderboard.

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Nadal, who won the Rogers Cup title in 2005 at Montreal (d. Agassi) and recaptured the title last year in Toronto (d. Kiefer), will next face World No. 6 Juan Martin del Potro. Though Nadal leads the lifetime series 4-1, he lost their most recent meeting in March in the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Miami quarter-finals when the Argentine rallied from down a double break in the final set to clinch the win in the tie-break.

"I think I say before the tournament my goal here is only try to improve every day, and I think I am," said Nadal. "I am not the favourite for sure for the match of tomorrow, but the match [is] going to give me another rhythm. The result, gonna be good experience [for] me to continuing improving in my level."

In his third-round match Thursday, Del Potro was forced to call upon all his resources as he battled past Romanian Victor Hanescu 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. The Argentine, who won his ninth successive match after having defended the Legg Mason Tennis Classic title (d. Roddick) last week, struggled physically and required attention from the trainer on his right shoulder and upper back in the two-hour and one-minute match.

The 20 year old's best result in an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event has been semi-final efforts at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami (l. to Murray) and Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open (l. to Federer) earlier this season.

ATP World Tour No. 4 Novak Djokovic made smooth progress into the quarter-finals, dismissing Russian Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 6-4. When Youzhny broke serve in the first game of the match, it looked as though it may be a testing afternoon for Djokovic. But the Serb hit back to win the next four games before going on to close out the one-set lead. Djokovic then pressed home his advantage as he broke in the first game of the second set, which was to suffice for the Belgrade native as he went on to close out victory in 82 minutes.

The 22-year-old Djokovic improved to a 9-1 tournament record, while maintaining his perfect record in Montreal. When Montreal last hosted the ATP players two years ago, the right-hander defeated the world’s Top 3 – No. 3 Andy Roddick, No. 2 Nadal and No. 1 Roger Federer – to claim his second ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title.

“This is what you want to have prior to the Grand Slam. You want to play the best players in the world to test yourself where you are at the moment, what's your shape like and see if you can win against them,” commented Djokovic.

The Serb added that he is hoping to rediscover his top form this week: “I haven't played that well since Madrid, at the French Open and Wimbledon. I made the quarters in Wimbledon, which was okay, but still haven't played my best. I'm trying to find my game. I think hard-court is the surface where I can play my best tennis.  That's why I think it's a challenge to have the best players in the world across the net.”

The fourth seed is one victory shy of his 50th match win of the season (49-14 record) after reaching his 13th tour-level quarter-final of 2009. Together with titles at the inaugural Serbia Open in Belgrade (d. Kubot) and the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships (d. Ferrer), Djokovic has reached the finals at three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments in Miami (l. to Murray), Monte-Carlo (l. to Nadal) and Rome (l. to Nadal).

Djokovic goes on to face Andy Roddick, whom he has lost to in their past two matches. Djokovic said: “We all know he's probably the biggest server in the game next to Karlovic, and he's playing much better since he started working with a new coach. He's more aggressive. He played great in Wimbledon. He's on a roll, so it's going to be a difficult one.”

World No. 5 Roddick was pushed to the limit by 10th-seeded Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, eventually prevailing 7-6(2), 4-6, 7-6(5) in two hours and 37 minutes. Verdasco saved two match points as Roddick served for the match at 6-5 in the third set, but Roddick regrouped to win his 31st tie-break of the season and improve to a 9-2 mark against Verdasco.

"I thought he played real well," said Roddick. "He was just crushing any ball that he had two feet under.  I was just trying to kind of fight him off for as long as I could, and that ended up being enough."

The 26-year-old Roddick is looking to reach his fourth Rogers Cup final this week. The Austin, Texas resident reached three straight finals from 2002-04 and clinched the title in ’03 with victory over David Nalbandian. The right-hander is second on the list of match wins leaders at the Rogers Cup, with a 24-6 mark, behind only Andre Agassi (35-10).

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