Tennis' Old Standbys in New Roles

Tennis' Old Standbys in New Roles

These are strange times for the two most famous rivals in men's tennis.

After years of dominating the game's top-drawer events and rewriting the record books, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are starting down unusual paths that they hope will lead to more Grand Slam titles.

Nadal, who missed 222 days with a knee injury after losing in the second round of Wimbledon last year, continues his comeback in Acapulco, Mexico, this week. Except his knee still hurts, and there's a chance he'll decide to skip one or both of the upcoming hard-court events in Indian Wells, Calif., where he has won two singles titles and two doubles titles, and in Miami, one of the few top events he has never won.

Federer, still No. 2 in the world, remains rusty after a strong but ultimately unsuccessful performance at the Australian Open, where he lost in the semifinals. His plan to improve: take a seven-week break from tournaments, a stretch of almost two months that will see him miss Miami and Monte Carlo before he returns to action in Madrid in May. Instead of competing, he will vacation with his wife and twin daughters and then practice.

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