If Nadal takes the week off, look for the latest Federer-Canas meeting in the final at Hamburg.

We have a new game in tennis: find the player in the draw who’ll beat Roger Federer this week. If Filippo Volandri – a wild card – can beat him in Rome, anyone can. Federer was obviously none too happy about that loss because he fired his coach Tony Roche this weekend.

Federer hired Roche to put more attack and volley in his game but it seems to have knocked Federer out of his rhythm. It could be that focusing so intently on improving his clay court skills and winning the French Open has thrown the rest of his game off. Let’s see if going solo returns some semblance of normalcy to Federer’s game this week.

Federer’s Half of the Draw

Robin Soderling should be Federer’s quarterfinal opponent because Soderling has beaten David Ferrer all four times they’ve met and he’s better than Ivan Ljubicic on clay.

I expect Novak Djokovic to find a reason not to play Hamburg even though it’s a required event because he’s looking pretty tired. That’s what happens when you’re tied with Rafael Nadal for the most wins this season: you get worn out. Even if Djokovic did play, he’d meet Mikhail Youzhny in the third round and Youzhny has beaten him twice this year. Youzhny has also beaten Tomas Berdych three times this year and that should get him a semifinal match against Federer.

I’ve ignored James Blake because Berdych should be able to beat him on clay.

Nadal’s Half of the Draw

I think Nadal will find a reason to drop out too. That dizzy spell and hospital visit in Rome set up the perfect excuse for Nadal to claim a health problem. I could be wrong – and if I am, I’m sure you’ll let me know about it – but I’m proceeding as if Nadal is not here.

Guillermo Canas beat Nikolay Davydenko in Barcelona. That was before Davydenko found his game and played a superb match against Nadal in Rome, but Canas is also 3-1 lifetime over Davydenko so I’m going with Canas. Canas is also 3-1 over Tommy Robredo and has beaten him this year.

I don’t know who’ll win if Fernando Gonzalez and Richard Gasquet meet in the third round, they’ve never played before. Gasquet is a better clay court player but Gonzales has found his game again and reached the final in Rome. It might not matter, though, because Canas beat Gonzalez the last time they met in Hamburg and Canas also beat Gasquet in their only meeting. Jeez, Canas has a winning record over everyone, including Mr. Federer.

By my calculations, that gives us a Federer-Canas final and that’s a match I’d love to see. I do not believe that Federer would let Canas beat him for a third time this year.

Hamburg draw

Picks
Quarterfinalists: Federer, Soderling, Youzhny, Berdych, Robredo, Canas, Gasquet, Igor Andreev
Semifinalists: Federer, Youzhny, Canas, Gasquet
Finalists: Federer, Canas
Winner: Federer

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 163 user reviews.