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Old 05-23-2006, 02:27 AM   #1
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Default Federer accepts role of underdog in Paris

interesting, but expected from the world #1. Realistic and humble, yet confident.

sorry about the lenghty article, could not directly provide the reuters link because it was on another site.

By Ben Harding

BARCELONA, May 22 (Reuters) - 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 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.


Asked what more he needed to do to beat Nadal, Federer said: "Nothing more. I should have won. I was one shot away."

Both Federer and 19-year-old Nadal pulled out of the Hamburg Masters after the Spaniard saved two match points to win an exhausting five-hour Rome Masters final to claim his fourth successive victory over Federer.

"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 in Estoril 12 months ago. He holds the U.S. Open, Australian Open and Wimbledon titles, but has never won the French Open which starts on Sunday. As last year the powerful frame of Nadal, the defending champion, is likely to be his greatest obstacle to glory at Roland Garros. "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 win in Paris, he would become the first man to hold all four grand slams at the same time since Australia's Rod Laver in 1969. Federer said he was glad of the rest after pulling out of Hamburg.

"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."
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