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New chapter in Federer, Nadal rivalry

india Updated: Aug 25, 2006 13:22 IST

World number one Roger Federer and chief rival Rafael Nadal will be aiming to write a new chapter in the hottest rivalry in tennis when the US Open begins on Monday.

While the pair will be the overwhelming favourites to contest a third successive grand slam final, Andre Agassi will be busy penning the last entry in his tennis memoirs as he contests his 21st successive US Open, a record in the professional era.

Federer and Nadal, who between them have won the last six grand slam crowns, are seeded to meet in a final that would extend their scintillating rivalry to the hard courts of Flushing Meadows after riveting jousts on Roland Garros clay and the grass of Wimbledon.

Top seed Federer, 25, seeks his third consecutive US Open title and ninth major victory of his career.

Nadal, 20, winner of the last two French Opens, has been the only player capable of standing up to the Swiss maestro, winning six of eight career meetings, including two of three on hard courts.

The early focus of attention, however, falls on Las Vegas showman Agassi, who will retire after his last match at the Open.

"This is the final curtain call for one of the game's greatest ambassadors and champions," US Open chief executive Arlen Kantarian said of the 36-year-old American.

"When Andre comes out of that tunnel each night, hopefully several nights at the US Open, you will see a special electricity in that stadium."

Twice former champion and eight-times grand slam winner Agassi made an improbable run to the final last year, winning three five-set matches in a row before falling to Federer.

Unseeded Agassi, who has played infrequently this year due to a bad back, faces fellow 30-something Andrei Pavel in his opening match, with a daunting obstacle looming next in eighth-seeded Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, this year's Australian Open finalist and Wimbledon semi-finalist.