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Big guns return

INDIAN WELLS, March 11 – World number one Roger Federer faces a potentially difficult path to the final of the Indian Wells hardcourt tournament, the season's first prestigious ATP Masters 1000 event.
The top-seeded Swiss is seeded to meet seventh-seeded American Andy Roddick in the quarter-finals and last year’s runner-up, Andy Murray of Britain, in the semi-finals.

Federer, who claimed his 16th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, will be playing his first tournament since beating Murray in the final at Melbourne.

He had been slated to play the Dubai Open last month but withdrew with a lung infection.

Men’s singles action in the tournament, which also features a prestigious WTA premier level event, begins on Thursday, with the 32 seeded players enjoying first-round byes.

Federer last reached the final in the California desert in 2006, when he won his third straight title.

Federer fell in the semi-finals in each of the past two years.

Defending champion Rafael Nadal, who also won the title in 2007, could find himself in a tricky quarter-final clash with Russian Nikolay Davydenko, who has beaten the Spaniard in their past three meetings.

Nadal, ranked and seeded third, will play a qualifier in his second-round tournament opener, which will be his first match since he retired injured during his Australian Open quarter-final in January.

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Nadal told sports daily AS this week that he had been training hard for three weeks and that his troublesome knees are fine.

Second-seeded Serbian Novak Djokovic could get a second-round opening match against American Mardy Fish — the man he beat in the 2008 final here.

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