Roger Federer was rooting for Rafael Nadal to 'dominate the clay-court season like the olden days'

By @saihoops on
Rod Laver, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal
Apr 2, 2017; Key Biscayne, FL, USA; Rafael Nadal of Spain (L) and Roger Federer of Switzerland (R) hold the finalist and Butch Buchholz trophy, respectively, after their match in the men's singles championship of the 2017 Miami Open at Crandon Park Tennis Center. Federer won 6-3, 6-4. USA TODAY Sports / Geoff Burke

Roger Federer, who returns to action Wednesday in the Mercedes Open, has revealed that he was rooting for old foe Rafael Nadal to "dominate the clay-court season like the olden days" while taking his two-month hiatus from the sport. Federer, 35, skipped the entirety of the clay-court season to recharge his batteries for the forthcoming grass and hard-court seasons headlined by the Wimbledon and U.S. Open. 

In recent years, Federer and Nadal have reportedly become close friends. Last October, Federer accompanied Nadal when the Spaniard launched the Rafa Nadal Academy in his home island of Mallorca.

Needless to say, there has always been a lot of mutual respect between the two all-time greats. After Nadal made history Sunday by becoming the first man in the Open Era to win a Grand Slam on ten separate occasions, Federer was quick to congratulate his friend via Twitter calling the achievement "Simply incredible."

Roger Federer was rooting for Rafael Nadal, his old foe

At the beginning of the year, Nadal and Federer renewed their Grand Slam rivalry at the Australian Open final over an epic five-set battle. They were admittedly fortunate to avoid the threats posed by Novak Djokovic and Andy Muray, who suffered early eliminations. A day before Federer returned to the court in Stuttgart, the Swiss Master acknowledged that he surprised himself by winning Grand Slam No. 18 at Melbourne Park. 

"I was terribly surprised to win the Australian Open and to back it up and win the sunshine double in Indian Wells and Miami was a complete surprise to me. I think Rafa winning the French Open is less of a surprise because he'd done it nine times before... I was hoping he was going to dominate the clay-court season like the olden days," Federer said on the eve of his opening round match against either Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert or German veteran Tommy Haas, via ATPWorldTour.com

Federer took a two-month hiatus from the sport after defeating Rafael Nadal in the final of the Miami Open to claim his third title of the year. He owns a 19-1 record in 2017, with his only loss coming to Evgeny Donskoy in the second round of the Dubai Open.

“There are no more breaks now. I’ve had enough breaks. I'm a practice world champion now and that's not who I want to be. I want to be a champ on the match courts. So I'm going to be playing a regular schedule for the second part of the season... And this is the beginning here at the MercedesCup in Stuttgart," added Federer, who has been tipped as the favourite to win the 2017 Wimbledon.

Roger Federer begins road to 2017 Wimbledon

In the lead up to the Wimbledon, which begins on July 3, Federer will also play in the Halle Open starting next week. "Obviously Rafa is in great position to finish World No. 1. For him it's going to be all about staying injury free. For me it's about getting back to winning ways, where I left off in Miami. I'm sure a lot of guys are going to start playing their best in the second half of the season, like Murray, Djokovic, Nishikori, Raonic, Zverev, Kyrgios, Stan. We'll all be playing our best tennis. It's going to be an epic finish to the end of the season. (It’s) quite exciting actually for the ATP Tour.”

Last year, Roger Federer reached the final 4 in Stuttgart before falling to Austrian sensation Dominic Thiem. His grass-court season continued with semi-finals losses to Alexander Zverev in Halle and Milos Raonic in Wimbledon. He hasn't won a grass-court title since the Halle Open in 2015. This year, Federer would look to win in Stuttgart and Halle to gather momentum ahead of the 2017 Wimbledon.

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