Federer upbeat on French Open chances

Roger Federer has scoffed at suggestions he is destined never to win the French Open despite having fallen at the last hurdle in the past two years.

updated: February 19, 2008 19:17 IST
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Roger Federer has scoffed at suggestions he is destined never to win the French Open despite having fallen at the last hurdle in the past two years.

The 26-year-old Swiss star lost to Spanish claycourt king Rafael Nadal in both the 2006 and 2007 finals and the Roland Garros title remains the only one missing from his career Grand Slam set.

Nadal will one again be the main obstacle come late May when the second Grand Slam tournament of the year gets underway in Paris, but Federer says he is hopeful of ending his losing run.

"The French Open obviously is one of the big goals for me," he said here Monday after being named as Laureus World Sportsman of the Year for a record fourth straight time.

"I hope it's not the one that is going to elude me. I am still young, I still have time on my side.

"Some people I hear them talking like its possibly my last chance this year and I disagree with this way of thinking because I think that great athletes can win Grand Slams all the way through to the last days of their tennis careers and for me I am going to try everything to win.

"I don't think I need luck. I am good good enough on clay. I grew up on clay and it's something that comes very naturally to me.

"Maybe I just need a favourable draw sometimes, maybe I just need that one set, that one match that is going to make me win the tournament because twice I was just two sets away from winning the tournament so you can't say I don't know how to play on clay. That's just absurd."

Since his stunning straight sets loss to young Serb Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of the Australian Open last month, Federer said that he has not put in a single practice session and he will not play again until he competes in Dubai in early March.

But he insisted this was the right approach to take as he needed to save his energy and guard himself against tennis burn-out.

And despite the rapid ascension on Djokovic over the last 12 months he says that he still sees Nadal as his main rival.

"Right now I guess there are two with Djokovic winning the Australian Open but my biggest rival is Rafael Nadal.

"After all he is a great competitor and a great champion and already at his young age to have three Grand Slam titles it's an incredible achievement.

"He is definitely my number one rival."

Federer also revealed that winning Olympic gold in Bejing in August came high on his list of priorities for this year as he failed to do so at both Sydney in 2000 and Athens four years later.

"When I went to Sydney back in 2000 I was so excited, I was like a kid in a candy store," he said.

"I was sleeping in the village and all the other athletes were there. You wake up early in the morning and you had the boxers and all the different athletes - the sprinters and the wrestlers.

"It was one of those moments that every athlete should go through.

"Then in 2004 in Athens I carried the flag for Swizerland which was a very big honour for me leading the Swiss delegation into the Olympic stadium and that's one of the reasons the Olympics will always stay one of the big goals of my career."