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Perfect starts for Nadal and Federer

DOHA, January 6- Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal began impressively the road which most people hope will lead the two tennis legends to their 21st meeting at the opening tournament of the 2010 ATP World Tour, the Qatar Open.Federer, the Wimbledon and French Open champion, beat Christophe Rochus, the world number 86, for the loss of only three games, while Nadal, the Australian Open champion, gradually warmed to his task and eventually got well on top while conceding just six games to Simone Bolelli, ranked 93.

The intensity of focus in both was marked, but their perspectives were apparently different. While Federer repeated that the year-end world number one spot would be another great goal to achieve, Nadal evaded suggesting there was any such vision for himself.

"You like a lot this thing," he told a questioner. "But for me it’s not important. If you win tournaments you will have your chance (of being number one).

"But I am just trying to play well here. If I win I have more chance of being world number one. But I’m taking it day by day, and so for me being number one is not a lot."

The Spaniard’s 6-3, 6-3 success against his Italian opponent contained some uncertain moments early on, notably when was 15-40 down in his opening service game, and 30-40 down on his serve in the sixth game.

But after Nadal had averted all three potential setbacks, twice with thumping serves, and once with a trademark lurching, leaping forehand, he became more confident.

A turning point came after Bolelli, whose flat-hitting was often dangerous in sudden ambushes, missed a point to reach 4-3, then delivering a contentious double fault to drop serve for the first time.

That happened when the baseline judge foot-faulted him on a second delivery, causing Bolelli to stare at the official, walk up and argue with the umpire, and then sit down muttering.

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Afterwards Nadal consolidated for 5-3, broke again in the next game to grab the set, and began the second set with his momentum increasing. It was a minor surprise that Bolelli held Nadal off till the sixth game before another break came.

By the end Nadal was hitting the ball really well, and certainly better than last year when he was beaten in the quarter-finals by Gael Monfils of France.

"I played well in Abu Dhabi and I had good rhythm when I came here," he explained.

Federer played so well against Rochus that it became evident from the moment that he broke serve for 3-1 that he was likely to trample all over his his opponent.

He took eight of the first nine games, and managed one humiliating forehand pass when Rochus had a good volleying opportunity from close in but still saw the great man move smoothly to return it with thundering interest.

The Belgian made a big fight to hold on to the third game of the second set, and was greeted with cheers after the ten minutes it took him to do it – but it made little difference.

Rochus’ problem was that, skilful as he is, Federer was just as much so, and much more powerful too. The impressive-looking favourite soon hurtled out of sight, taking the last three games in a row.

"I feel like it could be a great season," Federer said. "I had a break after the US Open and another one at the end of 2009, and I’ve come into this season pretty refreshed.

"I don’t often get a chance to steamroller someone like that. My movement was explosive and nice, and I feel physically fine and mentally fresh.

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"I feel eager to do well and I feel like I’ve got more titles in me," he concluded ominously.

Federer next plays Evegeny Korolev, a Russian ranked just outside the top 50. Nadal plays Potito Starace, the former top 30 Italian.

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