Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal probably would have preferred to get ready for the Rome Masters by playing on clay.
updated: February 25, 2007 11:35 IST
Rome:Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal probably would have preferred to get ready for the Rome Masters by playing on clay. A chance to play on grass at the Stadio Olimpico was too good to pass up, though. The two top-ranked players joined No. 3 Ivan Ljubicic and No. 8 Gaston Gaudio for a doubles exhibition Sunday on a makeshift court at center field before AS Roma's soccer match against Treviso in the Italian league. ''The grass wasn't exactly Wimbledon,'' Federer said, adding that was looking forward to the start of the tournament. ''I'm very excited to be back in Rome. I missed last year's event due to exhaustion,'' said Federer, who arrived in Rome on Wednesday for extra preparation on the slow clay courts. Federer lost to Nadal in the Monte Carlo final last month in the year's first Masters Series event on clay. Nadal can match Guillermo Vilas' record 53-match winning streak on clay if he defends his title here. He beat Guillermo Coria in a five-set final last year. ''I have fantastic memories of Rome. I watched last year's final a lot of times on TV. It was a very, very special moment for me,'' Nadal said. Nadal has a tough opening round match on Tuesday against 2004 Rome champion and mentor Carlos Moya. ''Each week is tough and you need to be prepared,'' Nadal said. Federer opens against Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina on Monday. Ljubicic has the first match on center court against Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia. Each of the top 10 players in the rankings are entered for the tournament, an important clay-court tuneup for the May 28-June 11 French Open. (AP)