Roger Federer insists he cannot wait to confront a rejuvenated Rafael Nadal, written off as an injury-cursed, spent-force earlier this year, at the French Open which starts today.
World number one Federer, the holder of a record 16 majors, completed a career Grand Slam at Roland Garros in 2009 with a first Paris title. But Nadal, who had won four straight French Opens, had lost in the fourth round, his crumbling knees conspiring with Robin Soderling’s match of a lifetime to sensationally engineer a first Roland Garros defeat.
Federer, defeated by his great Spanish rival in the 2006, 2007 and 2008 finals, stormed into the power vacuum to take the crown.“It’s one of the great rivalries in sports right now, and obviously in our game the biggest one,” said Federer of his career struggle with Nadal.
Federer, Nadal can only meet in final
The 28-year-old Federer insists he is neither concerned by Nadal’s record nor his own patchy claycourt form where his run to the Madrid final was preceded by a second round exit in Rome and a semi-final loss in Estoril. The 23-year-old Nadal’s form this spring has been breathtaking.
Between them, Federer and Nadal have won 18 of the last 20 Grand Slam events. That staggering statistic, coupled with an injury-depleted and undercooked chasing pack, should guarantee a fourth Federer- Nadal final in five years.
Ins and outs
Missing from the tournament will be Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko and US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina, both victims of long-term wrist injuries.
Should Federer reach the semi-final, Murray, who has a 6-5 career advantage over the Swiss, may be waiting. Murray has an intriguing first-round clash with France’s Richard Gasquet. Nadal will face French wildcard Gianni Mina, the world 653, in his first round. Australian veteran Lleyton Hewitt, who has lost three times in four years to Nadal in Paris, is a possible third round opponent. Nadal’s Spanish compatriot Fernando Verdasco, who has a 0-10 against the world number two, is a potential quarter-final foe.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 23, 2010.