Federer reiterates he wanted Nadal on clay after Rafa refutes claim
Roger Federer reiterated that one of his motivations for returning to clay was to face Rafael Nadal after the Spaniard dismissed the suggestion.
Federer and Nadal are two of the all-time greats – they boast an astonishing 37 grand slam titles between them – and will do battle in a highly anticipated semi-final at the French Open on Friday.
The Swiss icon is playing at Roland Garros for the first time since 2015, having sat out the following year due to knee and back issues before opting to focus his attention on grass and hard surfaces.
After completing a four-set victory over Stan Wawrinka in an enthralling quarter-final, Federer said he was relishing the chance to take on the 'King of Clay' at a place where his rival has was won 11 of his 17 major crowns.
Roger Federer in back into Roland-Garros semi-finals with a victory over Stan Wawrinka 7-6(4) 4-6 7-6(5) 6-4.— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 4, 2019
Le duel suisse a tourné à l'avantage de Roger Federer ! Il bat Wawrinka 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 et retrouvera Nadal en demi-finale !
Highlights with @Emirates #RG19 pic.twitter.com/eITWJ7vuOd
Speaking in an on-court interview, Federer said: "The next opponent is pretty good. He knows how to play on clay, unfortunately ... if I came back on clay, it's also perhaps to play Rafa. Here it is. I have the match."
When asked if those comments gave him any extra motivation, Nadal claimed there was no truth to the statement.
"That's not true. He didn't say that. He came back on clay because he's a player who is comprehensive, who plays well on all surfaces. And on clay he has good chances of winning," said Nadal.
"One thing is that he feels physically ready. He's coming back because he wants to do so. And if he feels in good shape physically he should not leave out a main part of the season. That's his main reason.
"But of course, it's going to be a very special match for him, for me, and so it's always been special matches … he will be ready to give his best, and I will be there, too.
"We shared the most important moments of our careers together on court facing each other, so it's another episode and I'm happy and excited for that. It will be special moment, and let's try to be ready for it."
After that response was paraphrased and put to him, Federer said: "Like against any player, there is always a chance. Otherwise nobody will be in the stadium to watch because everybody already knows the result in advance.
"For me to get to Rafa is not simple … I'm very happy to play Rafa, because if you want to achieve something on the clay, inevitably, at some stage, you will go through Rafa, because he's that strong and he will be there.
"I knew that when I signed up for the clay that hopefully that's going to happen. If I would have had a different mindset to avoid him, then I should not have played the clay.
"I think that mindset has helped me to play so well so far this tournament."