Both Hewitt, Federer now behind Pavel

Updated: March 30, 2004, 12:26 AM ET
By Cynthia Faulkner | ESPN.com

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- Looking at the draw sheet for a tournament has become something of a nightmare for Andrei Pavel. Every time, he sees Roger Federer's name.

Andrei Pavel
Getty ImagesThe hard-hitting phenom has lost four times to Federer this year, and only twice otherwise.

So don't be surprised if Pavel sends a thank-you gift to Rafael Nadal, who knocked Federer out of the Nasdaq-100 Open on Sunday night with a 6-3, 6-3 victory. Or at least gives him a thumbs up.

Thus far, Pavel has lost just six matches this year
-- four to Federer: Davis Cup in Pavel's home in Romania, in Rotterdam, Dubai and at Indian Wells. Pavel's not even one of the seven players who have managed to force Federer to drop a set this year.

So when Pavel looked at the draw for the Nasdaq-100, there was Federer lurking in a potential quarterfinal match. Pavel says the other players give him a hard time about it.

"But you know, what can I do?" Pavel asked.

How about communicate? Pavel said when he sees Federer in the halls, he good-naturedly salutes him.

"I always go like (this)," he said, smiling as he crosses his arms and flips a double bird, then crossing them the other way for another salute.

"He's a very cool guy," Pavel said. "He laughs."

Pavel defeated former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt 6-4, 7-5. That's despite being awakened by his toddler son and having to find someplace else to sleep at 4 a.m. before playing Hewitt on Sunday afternoon. In the fourth round, he faces American Todd Martin.

Hewitt said Pavel is a "sweet hitter of the ball." Especially, his backhand, which Hewitt described as free-flowing.

"He's able to hit down the line, cross-court. He hits angles very well, and he can attack off it, as well," Hewitt said.

Pavel's only problem has been that a backhand naturally plays right into the Federer forehand. Earlier, Pavel indicated that his only hope was beyond hope -- for Federer to lose early.

"I hope he's getting tired of winning," Pavel said, smiling.

On Sunday night, at least, Federer did.

Cynthia Faulkner is the tennis editor for ESPN.com.

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