Big three make for a vintage period, says Federer
PARIS (Reuters) - Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic: whoever wins at Roland Garros will claim something more than just the French Open title as tennis is going through a "very special time", according to Federer himself.
The Swiss could snatch a record 17th grand-slam crown on the Paris clay, while Nadal wants to secure a record seventh French title and world number one Djokovic hopes to become the first man in 43 years to win the four major titles in a row.
"Well, I think at the moment it's quite incredible. I can't see one player not playing well at the moment, finding things difficult," world number three Federer, who won his only French Open title in 2009, told a news conference on Friday.
"Some say two play well, one plays slightly less well, but the three play very well all along.
"But Novak deserves it. Nadal, too. It's true that we're going through a very special time in tennis."
The Roger v Rafa duel has turned into a three-way rivalry with Djokovic taking over as world number one.
What now what stands between Djokovic and greatness is the Spaniard's dominance on clay.
"It's an amazing achievement in itself to win three (grand-slam events) in a row. Four in a row is just another amazing step," said Federer.
"I think the toughest part is the very end, the back end of it. I've been there twice, I think. I was twice in the finals, twice a couple of sets away.
"I was playing Rafa here, which doesn't make it a whole lot easier. But it's easier to maybe start with the French in this era and then finishing it on the hard court."
According to Federer, who lost to him four times in the Paris final, Nadal is the favorite for the claycourt tournament starting on Sunday.
"I think Rafael playing for his seventh title is the favorite. I think he lost only two sets between Rome, Monte Carlo and Barcelona, so that's a pretty good start.
"Then he's playing for his seventh title, so no discussion. We're crazy to even talk about this. Some people might say he's not the favorite, but to me he's the favorite.
"I played him so many times here. I know how incredible he can be here in Roland Garros."
Djokovic agreed, saying of Nadal: "You can always expect him to be at his top (form), especially at the later stages of grand-slam tournaments.
"Here he's going to be even more difficult to beat because it's the best of five (sets)."
Nadal was his usual, down-to-earth self, saying: "This tournament is important enough in itself, not because now I have six. I have much more than I ever dreamed of.
"I am coming here with motivation every year and with the ambition to play well, and then we will see, no? But I am not going to be more motivated because I have six and I can win seven. The motivation always is the same."
(Editing by Clare Fallon)
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