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Tuesday April 14, 2009

Wawrinka says marriage and fatherhood can spur Federer

MONTE CARLO: Roger Federer’s Olympic Games gold medal-winning compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka believes the Swiss superstar will be rejuvenated as a tennis player due to marriage and impending fatherhood.

Federer, the world number two, who is still searching for a first title in 2009, made a last-minute change to his scheduling decision, taking a wild card into this week’s Monte Carlo Masters claycourt tournament.

The 13-time Grand Slam title winner arrived here on Sunday, just two days after marrying longtime girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec, who is expecting the couple’s first child in the summer, in his hometown of Basel.

In the mood: Argentina’s Juan Ignacio Chela hitting a return against Russia’s Igor Kunitsyn during the first round of the Monte Carlo Masters yesterday. — Reuters

“I was as surprised as everyone else,” said Davis Cup team-mate Wawrinka when he learned of his countryman’s wedding.

“But I’m happy for Roger and hope this and the birth of his baby helps him.”

Federer, who has lost the last three titles here to world number one Rafael Nadal, won’t enter the tournament until the second round stage.

Federer is without a title since Basel last October and has been battling a growing army of critics who doubt he will ever regain top spot as age, a suspect back and rivals such as Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray bolster their threats.

Meanwhile, Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina beat Igor Kunitsyn of Russia 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 yesterday in the first round of the Monte Carlo Masters to set up a second-round match against Nadal.

The top-ranked Nadal, who had a first-round bye, has beaten Chela in four of five matches, including all three on clay. Nadal’s lone loss to Chela came five years ago on hard courts in Cincinnati.

“Chela is a good clay-court player. I have to play good tennis if I want to have good chances to win,” Nadal said. “I need to try to play aggressive without a lot of mistakes.”

Although Nadal is bidding for five straight titles both in Monte Carlo and at the French Open, the 22-year-old Australian Open champion said he is feeling less pressure than he usually does in spring because of a fine start to the year.

“Maybe less than ever because I won in Australia, won in Indian Wells,” Nadal said. “I started the season better than ever. That gives me more calm than the last years.”

The 14th-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia used his strong forehand to dominate Flavio Cipolla of Italy 6-3, 6-2. Andreas Seppi of Italy also advanced, beating Jurgen Melzer of Austria 6-2, 6-0. He will next play second-ranked Federer.

Oscar Hernandez of Spain defeated Julien Benneteau of France 6-4, 6-4. He will meet No. 3 Novak Djokovic of Serbia. — AFP

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