MADRID – Roger Federer is ready to challenge Novak Djokovic for the No. 1 ranking after a monthlong break from tennis.
The third-ranked Federer returns this week at the Madrid Open, a tournament he won in 2006 and 2009.
"I am excited to be back after a long offseason, but I needed it after playing so, so much," Federer said Sunday. "I have put myself in a good position if I do win a Grand Slam for the world number one."
"I know how hard it is to win (a major championship). But it is a dream for me to achieve it this year. I will chase it as hard as possible."
To reclaim the top ranking, Federer will have to overtake Djokovic and No. 2 Rafael Nadal, the top two seeded players in Madrid. Nadal is playing excellent tennis with back-to-back wins at Monte Carlo, where he broke a string of defeats to Djokovic, and most recently at Barcelona.
"Rafa having lost so many times to Novak, it is interesting to see how (Djokovic) will react now," Federer said. "Both are great clay-court players."
The 30-year-old Swiss called Nadal the tournament favorite. He also withheld judgment on the event's new blue clay surface that the Spaniard clay-court specialist has criticized as a departure from tennis tradition.
"It feels a bit different from regular clay. I don't know if it is the visual or just the feel of it. It has been somewhat cold and rainy, so we'll have to see how it plays when it is hot," Federer said. "I haven't had a chance to play on center-court yet, so I'll have to wait until a proper match to give you my opinion."