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The Future is Now, Instant Reply Makes Its Debut at the NASDAQ-100 Open

March 22, 2006 10:23 AM

Instant replay made its debut on the professional tours when the 12-day NASDAQ-100 Open kicked off on Wednesday, March 22 in Miami. The seemingly unbeatable Roger Federer will try to replicate his 2005 title run, which included a dramatic victory over Rafael Nadal in the final.

Federer-Nadal is touted as a budding rivalry with the potential to boost the sport's popularity, but the two Europeans have met only twice since last year's thriller at Key Biscayne.

That match ranked among the year's best, with Federer two points from defeat in the third set before he mounted a comeback to win in five sets. Nadal avenged the loss by beating Federer in the French Open semifinal en route to his first major title.

Nadal also won their lone meeting this year, ending Federer's 56-match hardcourt winning streak in the Dubai final on March 4. That's Federer's lone loss in 23 matches this year.

"The one person that's probably closest to Roger is actually a difficult matchup for him,'' Andre Agassi said. "It's great to see a matchup that lends itself to a rivalry that might continue for a long time.''

With Federer seeded No. 1 and Nadal No. 2 -- the same as their rankings -- they can meet only in the April 2 final. Plenty of potential obstacles looms before then, with the top 12 players entered in the 96-man draw, including six-time champion Agassi.

Eight of the top 10 women will compete, among them defending champion Kim Clijsters and top-ranked Amelie Mauresmo. Notably absent will be three-time champion Serena Williams, sidelined by injuries since the Australian Open.

Because all seeded players have a first-round bye, the early focus will likely be on tennis' biggest rule change since the tiebreaker was adopted in 1970.

The men's and women's tours have decided to phase in instant replay beginning at Key Biscayne. It will be used only on the stadium court, with disputed calls reviewed on video screens visible to the players, umpire and fans in a process expected to take less than 10 seconds.

"We're the guinea pig, which we're happy to do,'' tournament chairman Butch Buchholz said. "I've got to believe the players are going to love this. You'd like to have a situation where you're not going to lose a tennis match because of a bad call.''

Not all players favor instant replay, though, and that includes traditionalist Federer.

"I hope I play on the outside courts so I don't have to face it,'' he said jokingly. "I guess it's going to affect me the most because I'll probably play many matches in the next few months on center courts.''

He has been the main attraction on the men's tour for three years, winning seven Grand Slam titles during that span, including the past three major events. Such domination is what makes Nadal's emergence tantalizing.

The precocious left-hander won 11 men's titles last year, a record for a teenager. He's still only 19.

And he has given Federer fits since the first time they met, at Key Biscayne two years ago. Nadal won that third-round match in straight sets.

The Spaniard is 3-1 against a player heralded by some as the best of all time.

"I enjoy the challenge with him,'' Federer said. "He's a terrific scrambler and he brings something else to the game as a great left-hander, and we don't have many of those. I enjoy playing him.''

Because Nadal is a lefty who hits with heavy topspin, he can pull forehands crosscourt and keep Federer on the defensive trying to hit backhands at chest level, out of his comfort zone.

"Nobody likes it up there,'' Agassi said. "Nadal can hit the one shot that everybody wishes they could hit to Roger.''

It wasn't a problem for Federer last week at Indian Wells thanks to James Blake, who upset Nadal in the semifinals. Federer then beat Blake for his third title this year.

"He's the best now,'' Nadal said. "He's the best player in the world, one of the best in history.''

It gives Nadal something to shoot for.

To follow the tournament action online visit http://www.nasdaq-100open.com/.

Southern Players Competing in this Year's NASDAQ-100
There are four players with Southern ties competing in this year's championship, including 2005 US Open semifinalist Robby Ginepri and rising star Donald Young (both from Atlanta, GA) on the men's side. Ashley Harkleroad, originally from Rossville, GA, and Atlanta born Jamea Jackson are competing on the women's. Both Harkleroad and Jackson now live and train in Florida.




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