Roger Federer: "Nadal is probably the greatest clay-court player ever"

Former world number one Roger Federer has returned to tennis after missing the entire clay court campaign after dominating the hard court season. The 35-year-old claimed a record-extending 18th Grand Slam singles title by defeating Rafael Nadal in a five-set thriller at the Australian Open final in Melbourne, and in Miami, and he won the BNP Paribas Open title in Indian Wells, defeating compatriot Stan Wawrinka in the final.

Federer is currently in the quarterfinals at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, where he will face last year's champion, Florian Mayer, as he chases a ninth title in Halle. The Swiss maestro spoke about Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal. "I think what Nadal did at the French Open stands out. The best players were in the final and Rafa once again cemented himself as maybe the greatest clay-court player of all time. For the others, I think Andy (Murray) was just extremely tired after getting to World number 1 at the end of last year."

The current world number five continued to elaborate on Murray's form, "So there was maybe a bit of (a) letdown and then he was injured too, so that didn't help. The second part of the season is going to be really crucial for Andy and for Novak (Djokovic) too."

Federer also spoke about his straight sets victory over Mischa Zverev, who is at a career-high ranking of 29. "He started serving great, which put me under pressure as I wasn't getting many looks. It was important to stay calm after missing chances to win the set at 5-4, and it's important to win breakers. They are the sets you need to win to win tournaments. It felt like a close 'breaker that could have gone either way.

The former world number one is looking for some grass court matches under his belt ahead of Wimbledon (Photo by Joachim Sielski / Bongarts)
The former world number one is looking for some grass court matches under his belt ahead of Wimbledon (Photo by Joachim Sielski / Bongarts)

"After I got that in the bag I was really able to start to relax and really play and feel the way I want to feel out there. That's the first time I've felt like that since Miami, so that's a good sign looking ahead." The eight-time Wimbledon champion spoke about his quarterfinal clash with Mayer, who he has beaten seven times out of seven, dropping a solitary set in their meeting.

"I played against a right-hander from the baseline in Sugita, a left-hander who serves and volleys all time (Zverev) and Mayer plays very differently to everyone else. He uses slice, he comes in, he chips and charges, he loops the ball and serves/volleys a little bit, so he's really going to throw everything at me. I know he wants it badly, so it will be a tough one. I played my best match today and that will give me some confidence for tomorrow.

"I think he's most dangerous on the grass. He's a tough customer, plus he's the defending champion. He hasn't had the best season so far, there is a lot riding on the match for him as well as for me because we both want to go deep into this tournament."