Nadal wants winning stamp on 2007

Rafael Nadal hit the practice court with 48 hours to go before his start at the year-end Masters Cup, determined to fulfil the goal of ending this season on a high note.

The world number two, trailed by his handlers, had only a short wait in the lobby of the five-star tournament hotel on Friday before being sent off in a car for the 45-minute drive through choking Shanghai traffic to the Qi Zhong venue on the outskirts of the metropolis.

Nadal, losing finalist last weekend in the Paris final to David Nalbandian, said he wants to put a winning stamp on this season after dealing with knee tendinitis over recent months.

“The most important thing is end the season with good feelings, I’m doing that,” said the Spaniard who has lifted six 2007 titles.

Nadal opens round-robin play on Sunday against Richard Gasquet, last qualifier into the eight-man field whose place was only assured a week ago.

The Spaniard heads the Gold group, which also includes world number three Novak Djokovic and David Ferrer.

Federer, winner of three of the previous four year-end competitions, paces the Red group along with Nikolay Davydenko, Andy Roddick and Fernando Gonzalez.

The Swiss has lost only one match against his group opponents, going down to Roddick more than four years ago but winning their previous 10 meetings on the ATP.

Djokovic will try to prove that he’s recovered from last month’s removal of his wisdom teeth as he faces Ferrer on Sunday to complete opening Red matches.

Federer’s group goes into action on Monday.

Group winners and runners-up play in Saturday semifinals, with the championship match over five sets set for a week from Sunday.

ATP officials are making the most of their presumably expensive investment in larger-than-life depictions of the eight singles players as ancient Chinese terracotta warriors, scheduling more Friday photo shoots using their giant props.

Transporting the works of art falls under the remit of one marketing executive. His job has entailed supervising the packing of the statues during several ATP tournament stops in Europe, getting them ready for shipment to Asia and making sure they make the journey from hotel exposition to the tournament site for the start of play.—Sapa-dpa

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