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Tuesday May 20, 2008

Federer tips Rafael to wilt in Paris

HAMBURG: Roger Federer expects Rafael Nadal to wilt under the physical burden of defending his French Open title when the world's top two players continue their rivalry at Roland Garros next week.

Federer slumped to his eighth dispiriting defeat on clay to the Spaniard in the Hamburg Masters final on Sunday, the worst possible preparation for the Swiss star as he gears up for another assault on the only Grand Slam title to elude him.

Nadal has won the last three tournaments in Paris, beating Federer in the 2006 and 2007 finals, and will be defending a perfect 21-match winning record at Roland Garros.

But the Mallorcan had to battle a hamstring strain in the first set of Sunday's final before going on to depose Federer as Hamburg champion, winning 7-5, 6-7, 6-2.

“I wish I could have won in Hamburg, that would have given me an even better feeling for Roland Garros,” said Federer after his 10th loss on all surfaces to the Mallorcan.

“To have won here would have just confirmed that I am definitely playing well. I can definitely say I am feeling good, the three hours wasn't a problem, from the physical standpoint.

“But from Rafael's standpoint, he is perhaps struggling a bit more due to the stress with the levels of the last few weeks. I am completely fine and I will be ready for the tournament.” – AFP

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