Montreal:Canada's Frederic Niemeyer, ranked No. 487 and playing his final season of pro tennis, set up a match with Roger Federer by defeating Russia's Igor Kunitsyn 7-5, 6-1 on Monday in the first round of the Rogers Cup.
Federer will play Niemeyer on Tuesday night, his first match since winning Wimbledon on July 6. The top-ranked Swiss has been off the tour to attend to the July 23 birth of his twin daughters.
"It will be an honor to play Roger in front of this crowd," said Niemeyer, a 33-year-old Quebecer. "He's the greatest player of all time, so to finish against him will be special. Or to beat him."
Monday also saw the return of world No. 2 Rafael Nadal to competition after two months spent recovering from tendonitis in his knees. The Spaniard and countryman Francisco Roig won a first-round doubles match 7-5, 6-4 over Novak Djokovic and Dusan Vemic of Serbia.
It was Nadal's first tournament since losing in the fourth round of the French Open to Sweden's Robin Soderling.
Nadal's match on court one was played in front of a standing room crowd, while on center court Stansilas Wawrinka of Switzerland was defeating Nicolas Kiefer of Germany 6-4, 6-1 in front of a handful of fans. Meanwhile, Niemeyer was battling to earn his center court date with Federer.
He was down 5-3 in the first set, but fought back to make it 5-5 and was up 40-love when he hit his left knee with his own racket on an overhead volley.
"I was like, 'Please, don't end like this,'" he said. "The pain was very sharp at first, but it slowly went away."
Niemeyer recovered to go up 6-5 and closed out the first set 7-5. He surrendered only 15 points and lost only one game in the second set.
"In previous years, I was trying to impress or trying to prove too much or trying to play too well," he said. "But I actually never played too well here."
Niemeyer played Federer in 1998, losing 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. He wouldn't mind if Federer is a bit fatigued from his parental obligations.
"I also played a tournament when my daughter was 2 weeks, and I didn't sleep very much that week," Niemeyer said. "He has two (kids), so hopefully he doesn't sleep at all."
Also, 13th-seeded Gael Monfils of France beat Russia's Marat Safin 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.
Two seeded Frenchmen advanced as No. 9 Gilles Simon beat Canadian Frank Dancevic 6-1, 6-2, and No. 13 Gael Monfils got past Russia's Marat Safin 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.
"I have great respect for this player, he had a great career," Monfils said. "Now he's got old, so maybe it's tough for him not to play his best level every week, but he's dangerous."
Dancevic, of Ontario, saw his late evening match delayed twice by rain and never appeared to find his rhythm once the weather stabilized just after 11 p.m. He made a litany of unforced errors that left him little chance of beating the efficient Simon.
In another first-round match, Croatia's Marin Cilic failed to take advantage of his booming serve and lost to Russia's Mikhail Youzhny 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-1.
Cilic, seeded 14th, made only 50 percent of his first serves. This was the second straight hardcourt tournament that Cilic did not win a match. He lost to No. 153 Somdev Devvarman of India in Washington last week.
Germany's Rainer Schuettler defeated Florent Serra of France 6-4, 6-0. Schuettler will face seventh-seeded Jo-Wilfred Tsonga of France in the second round.
Russia's Igor Andreev advanced when countryman Dmitry Tursonov quit with the score 5-5 in the first set because of an injured left ankle.
In a matchup of Canadians, Peter Polansky beat Bruno Agostinelli 6-3, 7-6 (6). Polansky, ranked 225th in the world, will face fourth-ranked Novak Djokovic of Serbia on Tuesday.
France's Paul-Henri Mathieu defeated Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 7-5, 0-6, 6-1, France's Jeremy Chardy downed Taiwan's Lu Yen-hsun 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4, and Germany's Philipp Petzschner ousted American Steve Querrey 7-5, 6-3.