Roger Federer is eager to see if his recent progress will help him fare better against Rafael Nadal on the clay-court surface.
Federer returned from an injury lay-off to win the Australian Open last year in what was his first Grand Slam title since 2012. The Swiss legend followed it up with titles in Indian Wells and Miami before making the controversial decision to skip the entire clay-court season.
It paid dividends as the well-rested Federer won at Halle before winning an unprecedented eighth Wimbledon title without dropping a single set all tournaments. He would later win titles in Basel and Shanghai to end the year with a tour-leading seven titles.
The career resurgence for the 36-year-old has only continued in 2018 as Federer not only retained his Australian Open crown but also became the oldest world number one in tennis history en route to winning the Rotterdam Open in February.
Currently in the round of 16 at Indian Wells, Federer surprisingly spoke about his desire to face Nadal on clay, having not faced him on the surface since 2013.
The Spaniard is the greatest clay-court player of all time as he dominated the events in Federer’s absence last year, winning titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid and a record-breaking 10th French Open crown.
Nadal also boasts a 13-2 record against Federer on clay which is why many feel the latter decided to skip the season last year in a bid to avoid fatigue as well as likely defeat. However, Federer thinks things might be different this time.
“I still think he is the best player on clay and that he will always be the best player in history on clay,” Federer told Spanish radio station Cope via Express. “But I would love to play against Rafa on the ground, at the best of five sets, I would like to see what happens now, but there is no guarantee that he will have more luck today than in the past.”
“I do not know, I have not thought about it, I do not know to what extent the progress I have will help me against Rafa on clay, he is still the best mover on this surface, I do not know if I move better than on clay, I have not played for a long time,” he said.
Federer has not played on clay since May 2016 and has refused to rule out featuring on the surface this year. But the 20-time Grand Slam winner’s participation will not depend on Nadal, who has had many injury problems since the end of last year, or even former world number one Novak Djokovic.
“It depends on what I want to do, how to avoid the injury, what my head tells me to do,” Federer added. “The fact that he plays or not on the ground (this season) does not depend on the presence or absence of Rafa (Nadal) and Novak (Djokovic).”