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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday January 3, 2017

 
Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal

Former world No. 1 Andy Roddick rates Roger Federer as the third favorite at most Grand Slams in 2017.

Photo credit: Laver Cup

Iconic rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal received rousing welcomes in their 2017 comeback matches.

Former world No. 1 Andy Roddick believes Federer will be in the major mix this season.

Watch: Federer Sky High

While Roddick doesn’t envision Federer reclaiming No. 1, he rates the 35-year-old Swiss as the third favorite—behind top-ranked Andy Murray and second-ranked Novak Djokovic— “at most Slams.”

In a conference call with the media to promote his appearance at the PowerShares QQQ Cup at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on Saturday night, the 2003 US Open champion stressed health is a key to successful seasons for both Grand Slam champions.

“As far as Roger and Rafa, obviously that conversation starts with health,” Roddick told Tennis Now. “I think Roger, I see him jumping right back to, maybe not Novak and Murray (level). I don’t know that he’s gonna play enough to kind of challenge those guys at the top of the rankings.

"But he’ll be right in there as maybe the third favorite in most Slams if he’s healthy, which it seems like from what I’ve read and seen he feels great—as good as he’s felt in a couple of years. So I think we’ll view his decision to kind of temper his play at the end of last year as a very smart one.”

The 30-year-old Nadal, who was sidelined 73 days last season recovering from a tendon injury to his left wrist, could face a tougher comeback if his movement is compromised, said the 34-year-old American.

“Rafa’s a little bit different,” Roddick said. “As opposed to just being healthy, moving on in age he was so dynamic in his prime and able to create such spin. If you’re getting to the ball a half-step slower, not creating quite as much spin, that makes a big difference for Rafa. So I’m certainly curious to see if his decline has been a little bit more health-based or just a little bit more age-based, which I actually view differently.”

Former Brooklyn resident Roddick joins Hall of Famers Jim Courier and John McEnroe and buddy James Blake, his teammate on the 2007 U.S. Davis Cup championship squad, in the field for the Power Shares QQQ Cup at the Barclays Center on Saturday night.

Courier faces McEnroe and Roddick takes on Blake with the winners meeting in the final. Tickets for the PowerShares QQQ Cup are available through Ticketmaster by visiting www.barclayscenter.com or www.ticketmaster.com, or by calling 800-745-3000.

Former Australian Open champion Courier asserts the world’s top two lack a clear challenger in the race for the top spot.

“As far as who could challenge the obvious Big Two right now, it’s hard to see someone immediately popping to mind,” Courier told Tennis Now. “You have someone like Kei Nishikori, who is an all-surface threat, but who has struggled to stay healthy throughout the season and hasn’t really been able to break through at the big, big match level just yet. He’s knocked on the door.

“You need to be good on all surfaces. That’s what Novak and Andy are and Roger and Rafa have been too. Obviously, their health is a little bit of a question mark compared to Novak and Andy. So there’s no immediate challenge (to Murray and Djokovic) that I think comes to top of mind. But I would look toward the guys who can put up points all year long and don’t struggle on the clay or don’t struggle on the grass. I think Nishikori kind of fits that bill.”

 

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