Tennis: Federer - Nadal will create tennis history at French Open

Roger Federer insists Rafael Nadal - not the Serbian powerhouse - will create tennis history at the French Open. Photo / Getty Images.
Roger Federer insists Rafael Nadal - not the Serbian powerhouse - will create tennis history at the French Open. Photo / Getty Images.

Novak Djokovic is all the talk at Roland Garros, but Roger Federer insists Rafael Nadal - not the Serbian powerhouse - will create tennis history at the French Open.

"He's playing for his seventh title, so no discussion. We're crazy to even talk about this," Federer said as debate raged over which of his two great rivals should carry favouritism into the claycourt grand slam starting on Sunday (Monday NZT).

While Djokovic - the reigning Wimbledon, US and Australian Open champion - hopes to become the first man in 43 years to complete a grand slam sweep of tennis's four majors, Nadal is title shy of eclipsing the modern-day record of most French crowns he shares with Bjorn Borg.

"Rafa is the favourite for me," said Federer, the 2009 winner in Paris who also lost finals to Nadal in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010, plus a semi in 2005.

"I think he lost only two sets between Rome, Monte Carlo and Barcelona, so that's a pretty good start.

"Some people might say he's not the favourite but, to me, he's the favourite.

"I played him so many times here. I know how incredible he can be here in Roland Garros.

No matter the favourite, only Djokovic can complete the fabled slam.

Of the seven men to win all the four majors in their careers, only American Don Budge (1938) and Australian Rod Laver (1962 and 1969) have held all four at once.

Since Laver, only Pete Sampras, Federer and Nadal have had chances to emulate the rarest feat in tennis.

Sampras lost to Jim Courier in 1994 quarter-finals in Paris, Federer failed against Nadal in French Open finals in 2006 and 2007, while Nadal succumbed to a hamstring injury and fellow Spaniard David Ferrer in last year's Australian Open quarters.

"To win three in a row is amazing and a fourth would be an amazing step," Federer said after Friday's draw.

"The toughest part is the back end of it. Twice I was close, just a couple of sets away playing Rafa here, which didn't make it any easier.

"But it's amazing for tennis to have Novak in this situation."

Djokovic has yet to make the final in Paris, faltering three times at the penultimate stage, but the 25-year-old knows now is the prime time to strike.

"I had the best year and a half of my career. I believe that I'm at the peak of my career at this moment," Djokovic said.

"I definitely want to use this confidence that I have and try to make a good result here in Roland Garros.

"My mindset is always positive and always expecting from myself a lot.

"It would definitely mean the world to me, but I haven't thought about that too much because I do not want to have too much unnecessary pressure.

"I don't need that at this moment because I already have enough. It's a unique opportunity, but the best tennis players in the world are playing here and you have to always put in an extra effort whoever you play against."

Nadal is feeling no such pressure after already achieving "more than I ever dreamed".

"I am not going to be more motivated because I have six and I can win seven," he said.

"No, I was not more motivated when I arrived here in 2005 than today. I was not more motivated in 2010 when I lost in 2009.

"The motivation always is the same - sometimes you lose, sometimes you win. That's sport and that's the game."

-AAP

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