PARIS – Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychoanalyst -- who died long before the onset of Roger Federer's rivalry with Rafael Nadal -- once had this to say:
"The healthy man does not torture others -- generally it is the tortured who turn into torturers."
Federer is a deep thinking guy but claims he has never read Jung and that he doesn't have a psychological complex when he faces Nadal, who holds a 10-2 record against him on clay and a 14-7 edge overall. He claims he does not fear that his off-court chum Rafa will attach him to a post and tear his skin with the wicked medieval device, the Spanish Tickler.
"I have no complex whatsoever," Federer said. "A complex would be (a career record of) 50 to 0 in his favor, but this is not the case. That's why it never crossed to my mind. I have respect for him, because he's a great player."
The top-ranked Federer knows that the next 10 days at Roland Garros will be largely about the anticipation of another Nadal-Federer clash. What Federer has done in his first two victories at the French Open is experiment a bit, with a clear eye toward future success.
In his 7-6, 6-2, 6-4 win over Allejandro Falla on Wednesday, he mixed up speeds and spins on his forehands, occasionally slapped and charged off second serves, caressed drop shots off both wings and tried to quickly strike on his backhand before the ball jumped up on him. Oh, and by the way, Falla is a lefthander -- just like Nadal, but nowhere near as talented and with a slightly different torque to his ball.
Federer has a tougher draw than Nadal and maybe deservedly so. While the world No. 1 is the defending champion, he doesn't have the Spaniard's sterling record on clay. Nadal has won three clay Masters Series titles this year -- Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid (over Federer) -- and has lost one match ever at the French.
Federer should have an easy time against German Julian Reister in the next round, but then his tournament will get more dicey with potential fourth-round matchups against fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka or Frenchman Gael Monfils, and possibly a quarterfinal against last year's finalist, Robin Soderling. The semis could bring No. 8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Andy Murray, who wants his measure of revenge after losing to Federer in the Australian Open final.
But Federer has reached a record 23 straight Grad Slam semifinals, and even though he is 28, any defeat prior to the semis would be a big surprise, as no player has contended with pressure better than he has on a year-round basis since he won his first Slam at Wimbledon in 2003.
"The pressure will never really go away," Federer said. "I hope it doesn't, because I'm supposed to feel pressure and I'm supposed to put myself under pressure and wanting to perform. I think that's what gets the best tennis out of me."
Federer's No. 1 spot is under threat at the tournament, both by Nadal and by No. 3 Novak Djokovic. In order for the Swiss to hold on to the top ranking and tie Pete Sampras' record of 286 weeks at No. 1, Federer must at least reach the semifinals if Nadal wins the title. Djokovic can take over if he wins the title and sees Federer lose before the quarterfinals.
"It's one of the greatest records, but I'm not getting up every morning wondering what I should do," Federer said. "But it's quite clear that if I beat this record, well, that's one of the greatest I can beat."
Some folks think that Federer would like to avoid Nadal on clay, but that is far from true. While the Swiss does have a negative mark against Nadal, anyone who saw Federer lose that tough final in Madrid a week and a half ago could clearly see he was mentally engaged, trying to change things up and find a way to poke a hole in the Spaniard's thick shield.
Federer also says that not having played Nadal for a year's time wasn't healthy for their rivalry. Really, why wouldn't he want another crack at him? Win or lose, the real torture for great champions is not having someone around to test them on the field of play.
"I'll be happy facing that kind of music, if I know I'll be in the finals against Rafa," Federer said. "But what's bigger? Is it the French Open final? Is it our rivalry? Is it wanting to prove that you're better than the other? ... It's one of the great rivalries in sports right now, and obviously in our game the biggest one. Try to live up to the expectations; try to win as many as you can. He's got the better record against me, so every time I play him I try to improve on it."