Roger Federer shrugged off his Madrid Open final defeat by Rafa Nadal as irrelevant, saying his claycourt season would be defined by his run at the French Open. Unsurprisingly, his victorious rival begged to differ.
“Rafa’s and my clay court seasons are decided at the French Open, and not before,” the 28-year-old Federer said.
“It’s unfortunately – or fortunately – like that. If we win all the tournaments like Rafa now and then go out in the first round of the French, everything will be questioned.”
Nadal, who became the first player to win a hat-trick of claycourt Masters Series titles in one year, was not prepared to endorse Federer’s views.
“Well, that’s a respectable opinion that I don’t share,” the Spaniard said after defeating the Swiss 6-4 7-6.
“And not because I have won the three (Masters) leading up to it, which some might think, but because I think it is unfair to think the whole clay season is decided by one tournament.”
Federer displayed his customary self-assurance after losing Sunday’s final, saying he was pleased with his overall form ahead of the French Open, which begins next Sunday.
“I think under the circumstances I played well today but he comes up with some incredible stuff,” the 16-times grand slam winner said.
“He’s Rafa Nadal after all and he’s playing with huge confidence and an incredible game from the baseline and it’s never easy to penetrate through that.”
Federer beat Nadal in last year’s final in the Spanish capital before claiming an emotional first French Open title and a sixth Wimbledon crown and snatching back the top ranking.
Injured knees wrecked Nadal’s year and he failed in his bid for a fifth straight French Open crown when he was upset in the fourth round by Swede Robin Soderling.
After winning the Australian Open in January, Federer has endured a dry spell while Nadal, by contrast, has won the Masters in Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid, his success on Sunday a record 18th Masters title, surpassing Andre Agassi.