May 25, 2018 / 2:15 PM / 24 days ago

Tennis: Nadal says French Open title just as sweet even with Federer absent

PARIS (Reuters) - Defending champion Rafael Nadal says he could not care less whether great rival Roger Federer is at the French Open or not and is simply focussed on winning an 11th title in Paris.

Tennis - ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Italian Open - Foro Italico, Rome, Italy - May 20, 2018 Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during the final against Germany's Alexander Zverev REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Federer, who took his major haul to 20 by winning this year’s Australian Open, has opted to skip Roland Garros for the second year running to concentrate on retaining his Wimbledon title.

As Nadal met the media on Friday, he was asked whether winning last year or potentially this year would be less of an achievement with the Swiss maestro absent.

“Exactly the same,” Nadal, who will be 32 during the tournament, told reporters. “Being honest. Exactly the same.

“I cannot say that the victory of Federer (in 2009) when I was injured or victory of Novak (Djokovic, in 2016) when I was injured is not that beautiful. Would not be fair for my side.

“When I am winning and other players are not playing for some reason, that’s all. It’s bad news for the tournament but not for myself if I win.

“For me, the victory means exactly the same.”

Sixteen-times grand slam winner Nadal has been in imperious form coming into the French Open, winning on clay in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome.

In Madrid he celebrated the landmark of winning 50 consecutive sets on the red dirt before his only blip came in a quarter-final defeat by Austrian Dominic Thiem.

Djokovic gave Nadal a tussle in Rome last week in the semi-finals and Nadal said the Serb will be a threat, despite a season in which he has suffered injury and poor form.

“Novak is one of the best players of our history of this sport,” Nadal said.

“My answer is he’s not coming back; he’s there always. Sometimes when you come back from injuries is difficult to play that well from the beginning, but he played a great event in Rome, and is no doubt one of the candidates to win here.”

Writing by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge

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