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Federer, Nadal the icons to beat in Montreal

MONTREAL - Roger Federer will be bidding for his sixth trophy of the season, in his first outing since winning a record eighth Wimbledon title last month, when the Montreal Masters begins on Monday.

The Swiss, a 19-time grand slam champion who turns 36 on Tuesday, has left his wife and four children in Switzerland before meeting up with them next week in Cincinnati and played down his immediate title chances ahead of the Masters 1000 event.

"I trained so much last year so I don't need any more," he said after a practise session in windy conditions which drew thousands to the showcase court to watch.

"What I need is matches, I feel good, that's why I decided to come here.

"But I'm not expecting much. I haven't yet found my rhythm. If I lose early I pack my bags and head to Cincinnati."

There was shock around the grounds a year ago as Federer announced that he would take the rest of 2016 off to properly heal a knee injury.

The pause paid massive dividends, with the grand slam king destroying Nadal in the January Australian Open final and now dominating the men's tour in 2017 with five titles.

Over-30 veterans Federer and Nadal have taken charge of this season, with Murray, Switzerland's Stan Wawrika, Novak Djokovic and Croatian Marin Cilic all missing the Montreal date through injury.

Murray is bothered by a hip injury which contributed to a poor Wimbledon title defence, Wawrinka is out until January and due likely face knee surgery while Cilic has an adductor strain.

Djokovic, who will not return until January, is embroiled in a complex situation, with the previously unbeatable Serbian mired in a slump and weighed down by both a right elbow problem and motivational issues.

With the US Open now just a month away, Federer and Nadal look set to to take charge again in the eastern Canadian city.

Nadal, the top seed ahead of Federer, is taking aim at replacing injured Andy Murray on the number one ranking, with the king of clay required to reach the semi-finals to achieve his goal.

But Nadal said the ranking race is not at the top of his priorities.

"I don't think about the ranking," Nadal, who last stood number one in 2014, said on Sunday. "I just try to do my work. I have a tough draw, I need to work on the right preparation, then let's see.

"I want to play as I did in the first part of the season. If I can make that happen, I hope to have chances to compete well."

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