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Monday Slice: Nadal's bad knees could hobble tennis

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FIRST SERVE

Barcelona is a common theme running through tennis just now.

On Sunday, Roger Federer shook off the disruption caused by an unwanted intruder carrying the Spanish city's soccer colors to clinch his first French Open title.

And on Monday, Rafael Nadal will venture to the heart of Catalonia to seek clarification on the long-term sturdiness of his troubled knees.

While the tennis world is queuing up to laud Federer for his wondrous achievement in reaching 14 Grand Slam titles, it is Nadal's doctor's appointment that could have the more direct impact on the immediate future of the men's game.

The world No.1's majestic tenure as the undisputed, undefeated, heavyweight king of Roland Garros was brought to a halt by Robin Soderling, and he has withdrawn from Queens this week due to knee-related concerns.

The suggestions that Nadal's grueling workload and physical training regimen will start to catch up with him have, up until now, proved singularly unfounded.

Yet this is a worrying development that could not only jeopardize his defense of the Wimbledon crown he snatched so dramatically last year, but have further repercussions.

The sport has thrived on the Nadal-Federer rivalry in recent times, with Andy Murray trying to force his way into that equation. If Nadal is forced to take some time out, or sees his capacity significantly reduced, it would be a huge shame for the sport.

Even Federer, you suspect, now that his confidence and verve have been restored, would prefer to face Nadal at his best at Wimbledon in order to fully avenge his heartbreaking 2008 loss.

DROP SHOT

French Open officials staged a superb tournament that featured stunning upsets, dramatic struggles and an historic ending.

But the security lapse which allowed a spectator to approach Roger Federer unchallenged for several seconds before being forcefully removed was simply unsatisfactory and must be remedied immediately.

CLEAN WINNER

Last weekend provided a timely reminder of the class of two of the game's greatest champions.

The gracious words of Pete Sampras, who had his Grand Slam record equaled by Federer, were a credit to the man.

Likewise Andre Agassi, who displayed typical dignity while returning to present the trophy 10 years after triumphing in Paris before departing back to the United States to continue his charitable works.

Gentlemen, the sport misses you.

USE YOUR FREQUENT FLYER MILES

Grass court season starts in the stately surrounds of Barons Court in west London as the lush lawns of Queen's Club welcome a competitive field.

British favorite Andy Murray is the top seed and will be well supported, but more importantly, will the end of Stella Artois' sponsorship agreement mean there is no more free bar for the media?

LAST WEEK'S RESULTS

French Open, men's: Roger Federer

French Open, women's: Svetlana Kuznetsova

THIS WEEK'S PREDICTIONS

AEGON Championships, Queen's, London: Andy Roddick

Gerry Weber Open, Halle: Roger Federer

AEGON Classic, Birmingham: Aleksandra Wozniak

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