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Punishing schedule taking a toll?

Punishing schedule taking a toll?
Nadal arrived in Australia with no competitive match practice after a knee injury forced him to skip two tournaments in the weeks before the first Grand Slam of the year. But the Spaniard appeared to be in fine fettle, especially when he came through a gruelling four-set encounter with Diego Schwartzman in a fourth-round clash that lasted nearly four hours. However, after receiving treatment during the fourth set against Marin Cilic in the quarter-final and again at the start of the fifth, Nadal was forced to withdraw from the tournament while trailing 2-0 in the decider. The world number one has voiced his displeasure about the length of the ATP season, as there is just a six-week break before the new campaign begins. The 31-year-old was expected to challenge Federer for the title once he had confirmed his participation, with injuries ruling out rivals such as Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori, while injury-hit Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic were also knocked out by less fancied opponents. And Nadal called for the tennis authorities to rethink the schedule to save the long-term health of his fellow players. There is a raging debate over the last six months after the men's singles at Wimbledon saw a number of top players drop out in the early rounds before Murray and Djokovic both saw their seasons come to a rather abrupt end. The Brit turned down surgery but was forced to go under the knife earlier this month while Djokovic did have a procedure on his elbow last year from which he is not yet to fully recuperate. And it is not clear yet whether Nadal will have to go down the surgery route as well. Federer is the only member of the Big Four left standing. The Swiss maestro skipped the entire clay court season last year in a bid to extend his illustrious career. This paid rich dividends as he claimed another Wimbledon crown. He appears poised to reclaim the number one ranking from Nadal. Federer will up against Croat Marin Cilic who booked his spot in a third career Grand Slam final by beating Kyle Edmund 6-2, 7-6, 6-2 in the semi-final. This sets up a rematch of last year's Wimbledon final, which Federer won while Cilic battled severe blistering on his feet. However, the Croatian says he has a plan to beat hyper-aggressive Federer at his own game. The mercurial Croat with a powerful serve doesn't have the best record against the masterful Swiss. Cilic has beaten Federer just once, in straight sets in the US Open quarter-final back in 2014. So number 20 beckons for Fedex? Barring a superhuman effort from Cilic, there seems no stopping Roger.

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