Reuters

Federer: Nadal is hot favourite

Federer: Nadal is hot favourite
By Eurosport

22/05/2006 at 22:51Updated

Roger Federer believes he is on the verge of beating claycourt rival Rafael Nadal but still rates the Spaniard as favourite for the French Open a week after losing their five-hour epic on a tie-break in the Masters Series final in Rome.

"I've never beaten him on clay but every time I've played him I've got closer and closer and I should have won in Rome, I really hope we do play (in Paris)," the 24-year-old Swiss told reporters at the Laureus World Sports awards on Monday.

"He's going to be the big, big favourite for the French Open," the world number one added.

Both players subsequently pulled out of the Hamburg Masters after their exhausting five hour encounter in Rome, during which Nadal had to save a pair of match points in the final set before claiming a fourth consecutive victory over the world number one.

"It was one of the most memorable matches in my career, playing for such a long time against a player like Rafael who plays so well on clay. That was a big boost knowing that I can handle him," Federer said.

"I need to play him a little more often to figure him out, and that's what I've had."

Federer is up for the Laureus Sportsman of the Year award in Barcelona after winning the same title 12 months ago.

SLAM CHANCE

The Swiss player currently holds the U.S. Open, Australian Open and Wimbledon titles, but is yet to win the French Open which starts on Sunday.

Just like last year, the left-handed Nadal should be his main adversary once again, after proving too much for Federer in the semi-final last year before going on to claim his first grand slam title.

"I would think it's between the two of us, maybe (Argentina's David) Nalbandian as an outsider, or the ones who won other tournaments on clay like (Spaniard Tommy) Robredo in Hamburg," Federer said.

If Federer can claim victory at Roland Garros, he would become the first man to hold all four grand slams at the same time since Australia's Rod Laver in 1969.

Federer also admitted he was glad of the rest after pulling out of the Hamburg tournament.

"I was defending champion and really ready to play but after the final against Rafael, the five hours we played plus the semis, it really took too much out of me.

"I got sick too, a little bit, a sore throat and a cold, so it was definitely the right choice not to play. Now I feel fine. I'm on good form."

The French Open starts this coming Sunday, get all the latest news and results here on eurosport.com

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