Roger Federer says Rafael Nadal’s success this season has been “incredibly inspiring” as he looks to return to the top level after knee surgery.
Federer, 40, has been out of action since losing in the Wimbledon quarter-finals last season.
He has undergone a third operation on his knee and it is not known when he will return to the tour, although he is scheduled to play the Laver Cup in September and the Swiss Indoors in October.
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While he has been away he has watched as long-time rival Nadal won a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, having missed the last five months of the 2021 season with a foot issue.
“It's incredibly inspiring when someone comes back from massive health problems,” Federer told Caminada Magazin.
“Rafa and I talk on the phone from time to time, we talk a lot. I knew he wasn't doing great, but when he made it I was really happy for him. The effort is immense.”
Reflecting on his own journey back, Federer said: “I don't post many pictures of the strenuous training because I was always convinced that it was a matter of course. Everyone trains hard.
“I swore to myself that by the end of my career I wouldn't be completely broken. Later I would like to go skiing with the children and play football with my colleagues. That's why I'm doing rehab now - not just for tennis. Also for life after your career.”
Federer’s agent Tony Godsick told Standard Sport this week that the hope is to have “great rehab this summer” and then “give a nice shot at 2023” with a view to playing Wimbledon again.
Federer is signed up to play at the Swiss Indoors in Basel, but is not confirmed for any other ATP Tour events.
Asked about his comeback, he said: “I can't even think that far. I'm waiting for the doctors' okay.
“I'm ready to give it my all again. I feel like a racehorse scratching its stall and wanting to race. In the summer I hope to be able to hit the ground running.
“I'm looking forward to coming home in the evening after the tough day of training and being completely exhausted.”
Federer also explained that the process of preparing to play now takes much longer than it once did.
“As with a car, you have to turn a thousand screws until the engine runs smoothly.
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“Today, mobilization, stretching, and a warm-up in the morning take about 45 minutes. Then we drive to the court. There follows a warm-up, half an hour. After that I eat, stretch, strengthen my ankles with tape, then warm up again, do gymnastics and explosive speed exercises.
“Before I finally play, I took care of my body for two-and-a-half hours.”
Nadal is one of the favourites for the French Open, which starts on May 22.
However, the 13-time champion struggled with a foot problem during his last match, a three-set loss to Denis Shapovalov at the Italian Open.
Federer says he is “happy to be 40” even though he is approaching the end of his career.
“Now, of course, everything is based on the family, that it is doing well. I want to find the right balance between my tennis, the needs of the children, [wife] Mirka, our friends. One has the feeling that the wheel turns faster and faster with age. Now I'm in the middle of life, still have enough energy, plus a lot of experience, I'm full of zest for action.
“I'm happy to be 40 and I look forward to everything that's to come. It just sometimes makes me a little nostalgic that it was all so long ago and my career probably won't last that long. It was an incredibly great time. I hope to experience that again to some extent.”
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