Roger Federer makes Rafael Nadal admission as he opens up on clay-court plans

The Swiss icon has not played a tournament on clay since the Italian Open in 2016, when he lost to Dominic Thiem in the third round. 

Since then, he has skipped the clay-court season in back-to-back seasons while has not participated at Roland Garros since 2015.

But despite being 37, Federer revealed his plans to return to the red dirt this year.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion has previously had time away during the clay season in order to prolong his career as long as possible, given it is not his strongest surface.

Long-time rival Rafael Nadal meanwhile has won 11 of the last 14 French Opens and has swept up 10 of 15 tournaments on the red stuff since Federer’s last appearance in Rome.

And Federer insists he is excited to get back on the clay but says he is not returning to it simply to chase titles, more to simply see how he performs after such a lengthy absence.

Asked if the thought of playing on clay again excites him, Federer told the Tennis channel: “Yes, that’s why I’m playing otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it anymore. 

“I think that was a very interesting conversation I had with the team. I asked them, ‘What do you think about the clay? Should I do it or shouldn’t I do it?’ 

“They were like, ‘If you’re happy to play tennis, that’s a good thing. Because you could be at your age like, ‘I don’t want to play clay or I don’t want to play tennis anymore’. 

“And they say I’m different because I actually want to do it, so I should do it and if clay excites me. 

“I must say, missing out on two full clay seasons and three French Opens is not something I ever thought I was going to do later on in my career. Three years ago I got injured and my knee was still not healing well.

“Two years ago I was on the clay for a couple of days. Then I was like, ‘What are we thinking?’ and the team was like, ‘You should really think about it hard and long if you really want to do this.’ 

“And I was like, ‘Okay, that answers the question, let’s not do it.’ Last year I really wanted to take a break, three months off with the family and being able to train and for longevity reasons I thought it was a great thing to do. 

“This year, I didn’t want to have three months off and I was excited to play the clay again. Let’s see if it will help me maybe for Wimbledon, maybe for the rest of the season. 

“Maybe use the clay as, ‘Let’s see what happens.’ If something good happens, great. 

“If it doesn’t, well I still had a good time. I used to play okay, I don’t know if the future’s still the same, we’ll see!”

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