MONTREAL - Rafael Nadal's knees held up fine. Instead, it was his opponent David Ferrer who limped off the court.
Nadal's first match in 10 weeks ended early as his Spanish compatriot Ferrer retired due to a sore left knee in the first set of their second round match Wednesday night at the US$3-million Rogers Cup.
The crowd of more than 11,000 at Uniprix Stadium let out a collective groan when the chair umpire announced that the match would stop with the world's No. 2-ranked player leading 4-3 in the set.
Nadal said he felt fine, even if he isn't on top form, but the first real test will come in the third round on Thursday when he faces Philipp Petzschner of Germany, who upset 15th-seeded Spaniard Tommy Robredo 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4).
"It's always a pleasure to come back," said Nadal, who has not played since losing to Robin Soderling in the fourth round of the French Open on May 31. "It's only been (two) months and a half, it's not three years outside of tennis.
"I'm happy to come back and play in Canada again, but the feeling is normal, like always. But when you have some time off competition, when you come back, it's a little more exciting."
Ferrer looked to be limping even before the match and, after some long points with a lot of running, looked uncomfortable during changeovers. He said the injury first flared up at Wimbledon in late June, but he doesn't feel it is serious and believes he'll be ready to play next week in Cincinnati.
"I never expected this from David," said Nadal. "I'm sorry for him.
"For me, it was nice to have a victory like this. I'm here to improve every day, to enjoy very game, every point. Sure, it was a bit strange. The first movements are tough and it's hard to move well and to feel confident when you touch the ball. But that's normal. I must be happy because I didn't play terrible. Next round, I have another chance to continue to improve."
The top seed, Roger Federer, faces an all-Swiss third-round meeting with Stanislas Wawrinka, who downed Andrey Glubev of Kazakhstan 7-5, 6-4. Federer is in his first tournament since taking time off after his Wimbledon victory while his wife gave birth to twin girls.
Third seed Andy Murray takes on Juan Carlos Ferrero, the former world No. 1 who has been hot of late, including his 6-3, 7-6 (6) upset of 13th-seeded Gael Monfils of France in the second round. Murray has a chance to overtake Nadal for the No. 2 ranking if he does better than the Spaniard this week.
Novak Djokovic, the fourth seed, faces Russian Mikhail Youzhny, who beat American John Isner 6-7 (8), 6-1, 6-3.
In doubles, Frank Dancevic of Niagara Falls, Ont., and Pierre-Ludovic Duclos of Ste-Foy, Que., defeated Nikolay Davydenko and Igor Kunitsyn of Russia 7-5, 5-7 (14-12) in a first-round match.
The Canadians' next opponent will be the eighth-seeded pair of Lukasz Kubot of Poland and Oliver Marach of Austria.
There was warm applause for the fifth seed, American Andy Roddick, who looks to have gained new recognition for his skill and tenacity since his loss to Federer in a five-set marathon final at Wimbledon.
Roddick downed Igor Andreev of Russia 6-1 7-6 (6).
The top American tennis player said he was "humbled" by the reaction of fans both at the All England Club and back home in North America to his thrilling loss to Federer in July, in which the Swiss ace won a record 15th career grand slam title.
"I don't know if I've ever had this level of support in my career thus far," said Roddick.
"It definitely helped a lot as far the recovery process and getting excited about getting back out here again. Especially seeing the excitement it caused for tennis in the United States. It was THE story for a couple of days or a week, which is rare. There's been a lot of good things that have come of it."
The centre court crowd was certainly on the side of the 26-year-old American as he evened his match record against Andreev to 2-2 and advanced to a third round meeting with 10th-seeded Fernando Verdasco of Spain.
But it wasn't quite like that moment at Wimbledon when both players were cheered for a classic final match.
"To be honest, afterwards I was sitting there and there was a million things going through your head, especially with the significance of what happened, of what Roger had just accomplished. For them to acknowledge my effort was kind of nice. I certainly appreciated it," he said.
And now the former world No. 1 feels a new warmth from fans.
"During my career I've been portrayed as every type of person - good, bad, ugly, rude, nice - and this is the first time it's been presented in the light of a hard-working, everyday Joe type of tennis player trying to make good," he said. "All the while the meat and potatoes of who I am have probably stayed the same.
"Maybe people have realized that it's not easy and it does take work."
With the Wimbledon loss and a three-set defeat in the final in his return to the court last week in Washington, Roddick will be vying to reach a final in a third straight tournament at the Rogers Cup.
The toughest part of moving to a new venue was the change of the balls that are used - from Wilson in Washington to Penn in Montreal - which he did not appreciate at all.
"We shouldn't be changing tennis balls in midsummer - that's the height of not using common sense," he said testily.
Verdasco, the second-ranked left-handed player on the ATP Tour behind Nadal, advanced to the round of 16 with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Leonardo Mayer of Argentina.
Another retirement saw 11th seed Fernando Gonzalez advance after Tommy Haas of Germany was unable to continue after one set due to blisters on his hand.
Ferrero, the 29-year-old from Spain who held the No. 1 ranking in 2003 after he won the French Open, had to go through two qualifying matches last weekend to get into the tournament because the direct entries were set six weeks ago, when he was ranked 70th in the world. He has since risen to No. 29, thanks to a 20-7 match record since May.
Ferrero fought off two set points in the tiebreaker to 22-year-old Monfils, who played his first tournament since he withdrew from the Queen's Club event in England on June 11 with a left wrist injury.
Sixth-seeded Juan Martin Del Potro, the winner in Washington last week, advanced with a 6-2, 7-5 win over Jan Hernych of the Czech Republic.
Seventh-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga downed German veteran Rainer Schuettler 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Organizers announced that ticket sales have already exceeded 190,000, which guarantees they will break the record for a one-week ATP tournament of 185,252 set in Montreal in 2007.
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