TORONTO, August 9 – Roger Federer celebrated his 29th birthday on Sunday, but the gift he most desires is to win this week's Toronto Masters and rebound from his lowest world ranking for seven years of third.The Swiss, who has not played since losing to Tomas Berdych in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, is seeded third but a good omen for him is that the last time his ranking was this low was going into the year-ending 2003 Masters Cup in Houston, which he won.
World number one Rafael Nadal and second-ranked Serbian Novak Djokovic top the Toronto seeds with Andy Murray, defending champion from last year’s event in Montreal, seeded fourth.
Murray is not surprised that former world number one Federer’s previous dominance has waned.
"He had three or four years of unbelievable consistency. It was incredible," said the Scot, who lost to Federer in the season’s first Grand Slam the Austrsalian Open.
"That’s almost impossible to keep, especially on the body.
"But at the later stages of big events he’s one of the guys who are usually there. He’s up there with the best in the world.
"It’s not always about the rankings. If he’s third or 10th, he still feels confident. He believes he can beat anyone."
Federer was hopeful for a practice workout despite the threat of rain and was later to be presented with a birthday cake by organisers of the first major North American event in the run-up to the US Open, which starts in three weeks.
The top eight seeds in Toronto receive first-round byes, with Federer to face either Argentine Juan Ignacio Chela or Alejandro Falla, the Colombian who gave him a major fright in the Wimbledon first round.
While Nadal put in a high-profile appearance upon his arrival in Canada by ascending the iconic CN Tower for the draw, Murray, Federer and Djokovic have been sticking to the practice courts.
In the hardcourt run-up to the US Open, Toronto and next week’s Masters test in Cincinnati are key for the big names to fine tune their games.
Murray, who blew a chance to win the Los Angeles title a week ago when he failed to convert a match point against Sam Querrey, said he is feeling no pressure despite his letdown in LA.
"I want to improve my ranking, but the only way to do that is win events," he said.
Murray said that he will follow the example of Nadal and Djokovic in playing doubles, teaming with fellow Briton and good friend Ross Hutchins.
Not since Jimmy Connors was ranked first and Arthur Ashe was second when they played together 34 years ago at North Conway, New Hampshire, have the top two singles players joined forces in doubles, the ATP said.