French Open: Unlike injured Nadal, Federer has stayed healthy
Paris • Perhaps not surprisingly, the first three questions posed to Roger Federer at his pre-French Open news conference Friday concerned rival and nemesis Rafael Nadal.
The third was about the difficulties of making a successful return from injury, the way Nadal has, reaching the final at all eight tournaments he's played in 2013 after going more than half a year between matches.
Federer shrugged and replied simply: "I don't know. I have never been out for seven months."
No, he hasn't. Federer is always around, particularly at Grand Slam time. When the French Open starts Sunday, he will be participating in his 54th consecutive major tournament, a run that began with the Australian Open in January 2000. That's the longest such streak among active players; no one else comes within two years of Federer.
"For me, it's just something I just kept on doing. Now here we are," said Federer, who is seeded No. 2 in Paris and was drawn Friday to face qualifiers in each of the first two rounds.
"It's incredible. I never thought I was going to play that many, have that many opportunities to do well at the Slams. And clearly I'm happy about it, but they don't buy me victories, you know," added Federer, whose record 17 major titles include the 2009 French Open. "But it shows maybe great stamina and [an] injury-free career, in a way."
Nadal, who's dealt with recurring knee problems, will be back in Grand Slam action after nearly a year's absence from the four most important tournaments in tennis. At least he's in the field at Roland Garros, something Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro can't say: Both of those past U.S. Open champions and current top-10 players withdrew because of health issues.
Seven-time French Open champion Nadal dismissed the notion that he might be excited about getting back on the Slam stage for the first time since a second-round loss at Wimbledon last June.
Each tournament is as important as any other, the 11-time major title winner insisted Friday, going so far as to say: "If you can ask me if I win one Grand Slam during the whole year or win six tournaments, like I already did, I will choose [winning] six tournaments."
O First round
3 a.m.-8 a.m. • ESPN2
10 a.m.-1 p.m. • Ch. 5