Rafael Nadal delivers Roger Federer injury return verdict after extending Grand Slam lead

Rafa Nadal reacts to winning French Open at Roland-Garros

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Rafael Nadal has backed his long-time friend and rival Roger Federer to do “something special” when he makes his eventual return to competition following a third knee surgery. The 40-year-old will be making his comeback at the Laver Cup alongside the Spaniard before his first tour event at the Swiss Indoors Basel.

Nadal extended his lead over Federer and Novak Djokovic in the Grand Slam race on Sunday when he won his 22nd Major and 14th French Open, pulling ahead of the pair who are tied on 20 Grand Slams each. But the world No 5 has maintained that he isn’t “bothered” about who has the most Major titles and has hinted that the Swiss star could have a successful comeback later this year.

The former world No 1 has not played since Wimbledon last year, suffering a “setback” with his troublesome knee and announcing he would undergo his third knee surgery in 18 months. Federer is now back in the gym and preparing for a comeback at the Laver Cup, before returning to his home tournament in Basel a month later.

And despite extending his Grand Slam lead over Federer, Nadal didn’t rule out the possibility of the 40-year-old winning another Major. “Anything can happen,” the newly-crowned French Open champion told the ATP Tour.

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“Federer has been out for a long time and you can always expect something special from him, but we all know how difficult it is to come back, even more so at 40.” The 36-year-old had also tipped Djokovic to overtake both himself and Federer in the Grand Slam race with the Serb facing “no physical problems”. 

“We’ll see what happens,” he added. “As I’ve always said, it didn’t bother me when we were level, and it doesn’t bother me now that I’m two ahead. I just want to keep competing.”

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Nadal’s comments come after he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that his happiness wouldn’t be affected if his rivals overtook his current Grand Slam record. “Of course, I want to be the player with (most) Grand Slams in history – that’s competition. But it’s not something that I am obsessed (with) and it’s not something that changed my mind,” he said.

“Honestly, it’s something that does not bother me if Novak wins 23 and I stay with 22. I think my happiness will not change at all, not even one per cent.”

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