I missed you, Roger tells Rafa

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By Julien Pretot

PARIS (Reuters) - Roger Federer is looking forward to facing his great rival for the French Open crown a year after Rafael Nadal missed their rendezvous in the final.

With usual contenders Nikolay Davydenko of Russia and Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro having pulled out injured, the road looks clearer for another Roger versus Rafa classic.

"We'll see how we play. I hope we can play again in the future, because a year away from each other was maybe a bit long," he added.

After 12 months without meeting Nadal, Federer finally caught up with him last week in the Madrid Masters final.

The muscular Spaniard beat the Swiss last Sunday, a year after losing at the same stage in the same place.


"I think anywhere we play is special," said Federer.

"It's always a big match regardless of where it is, how it is. It's one of the great rivalries in sports right now, and obviously in our game the biggest one."

Nadal and Federer have met 21 times, with the Spaniard coming out on top on 14 occasions, comfortably winning three French Open finals against the Swiss.

Neither was keen to jump the gun and anticipate a fourth final showdown on the Paris clay, although the temptation was greater for Federer who made the draw at Roland Garros.

"When you're sitting in that room, you feel like, ah, if only I could have picked maybe (...) Oh, no. You don't even want to start thinking that way," he said with a smile.

"It was a bit nerve-wrecking in some ways. But I'm used to pressure situations, so it was moderate. It was fine."

The pressure will get stronger by the day for the defending champion, who could meet France's Gael Monfils in the fourth round before a possible quarter-final clash with Swede Robin Soderling who he beat in last year's final.

"Fourteen days down the road and six matches for each of (us) to get into the final. (It) is not my priority to play Rafa," said Federer.

(Editing by Ken Ferris)