Roger Federer snubbed in Rafael Nadal challenge by Dominic Thiem… Novak Djokovic included

Roger Federer is playing on clay for the first time in three seasons while Nadal is arguably the best player ever to star on the red dirt.

The Spaniard has won 11 French Open titles and will be favourite to win again in Paris when this year’s tournament gets underway next month.

Djokovic is the current world No 1 and has won each of the last three Grand Slams.

Federer has hit some form in recent weeks, reaching the final at Indian Wells before winning the Miami Open.

But Thiem did not mention the Swiss star when asked who will be Nadal’s closest challenges on clay this year.

“As long as Rafa is playing, he will always be the top favourite on any clay court title but I think there are more serious challengers to him than the last years maybe,” Thiem said.

ROGER FEDERER CLAY COURT SCHEDULE: Where will Swiss star play?

“Sascha [Zverev] always, Novak [Djokovic] is back on the top of his game. I hope me and then there are the really young guys.

“Felix [Auger-Aliassime] I think he likes clay a lot so he played amazing in Miami and also very young guys like Stefanos [Tsitsipas], [Denis] Shapovalov, there are many serious young challengers for us, I think.

“Novak is on the top of his game again. Won the last three Slams in a row which is amazing and I think he also has in his mind that he can beat Rafa anywhere.

“Last year he obviously was not on his top so there’s one more really strong opponent for Rafa, which makes the whole clay-court season even more interesting I would say and even us players we are very curious how it will be and who are the biggest challengers.”

Federer is set to play just one warm-up tournament before the French Open while Nadal is at the Monte Carlo Masters this week.

And Thiem has acknowledged just how good 20-time Grand Slam winner Federer is on clay.

“Federer is amazing on all surfaces and his record on clay is pretty stunning,” he added. “He reached so many semi-finals and finals.

“If there wouldn’t be Rafa he would be on six or seven French Open titles. That was his only problem, I would say.

“He’s playing amazing tennis again. He won Dubai, finals Indian Wells, he won Miami.

“He just has to adjust on the clay, I think he’s practising now on the clay and I think he will come out very strong in Madrid and French Open.”

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