Rafael Nadal recalls: 'I knew Roger Federer would play Roland Garros'

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Rafael Nadal recalls: 'I knew Roger Federer would play Roland Garros'

After much thought, the 20-time Major champion Roger Federer decided to compete on clay last year, entering the home ATP 250 event in Geneva and Roland Garros. Roger skipped Madrid and Rome and picked Geneva and Paris as his clay-court stops, hoping to play at his best after the most extended break of his career.

Federer suffered an early loss in Geneva to Pablo Andujar from 4-2 up in the decider, taking a couple of weeks off and entering his 19th Roland Garros. Despite a shorter grass swing in comparison to the previous years, Roger opted to give it a go on the Parisian clay.

Federer claimed his lone Roland Garros crown in 2009, completing a Career Grand Slam in that emotional final against Robin Soderling.

Rafael Nadal knew about Roger Federer's Roland Garros plans.

Federer did not play at Roland Garros in 2016, 2017 and 2018 to better prepare for the grass swing.

The Swiss stayed away from the slowest surface for three years before returning in 2019. Finding his old clay magic, Roger beat five rivals to reach the Roland Garros semi-final. He set a thrilling clash against his old rival Rafael Nadal and lost it 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in two hours and 25 minutes.

Fourteen years after their first Roland Garros clash, Roger and Rafa were engaged in another battle for the final at the clay Major. The Spaniard was the favorite, and he had the upper hand from start to finish. He delivered the 24th triumph over Federer in 39 encounters, the 14th in 16 clashes on clay and the tenth in 13 Major duels.

Federer had to skip 13 months after the 2020 Australian Open, undergoing two knee surgeries and returning in March last year in Doha. Asked about his rival, Rafa said he knew about Roger's plans of competing in Paris, feeling happy about him and saying it's good for tennis.

Federer would score three victories at the last year's Roland Garros, overpowering Dominik Koepfer in the third round to enter the last 16. It was a three-and-a-half-hour battle, and the Swiss decided to withdraw ahead of the fourth-round meeting with Matteo Berrettini to save his knee for the grass swing.

"I spoke to Roger before, and I knew he would play in Paris. I think it's good for tennis in general, and him too," Rafael Nadal said.