Federer Keen to Avoid Burden of Expectation


Paris, Jun 2: Roger Federer is just three wins away from both a career Grand Slam and joining Pete Sampras as a 14-time major winner, but he's desperate to avoid sinking beneath a tidal wave of expectations.

With four-time champion Rafael Nadal, who defeated the great Swiss star in the last three finals here, beaten for the first time at Roland Garros, Federer has been widely-tipped to cruise to a first French Open title.

That would make him only the sixth man in history to have won all four Grand Slam titles.

But the 27-year-old insists that Rafa or no Rafa, there is still work to be done on the claycourts which have, year in, year out, resembled more of a scrapyard for him than a playground.

"I'm used to any kind of a situation, so (Nadal's defeat) doesn't affect me in a big way," said Federer who battled back 6-7 (4/7), 5-7, 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 to beat German veteran Tommy Haas in the fourth round on Monday.

"You are aware of it. You try and stay in the draw, but at the end of the day you're focusing on your shots and your match and on how you play and the game plan against that player."

If Federer can get past French 11th seed Gael Monfils on Wednesday and then either Juan Martin Del Potro or Tommy Robredo in the semi-finals, he may start thinking that finally the tennis gods, at least those in this south-west corner of Paris, are on his side.

"I think if you make it to the final then it's a different scenario because whoever I play then I probably have a decent record against which wouldn't be the case with Rafa, knowing that he has all the experience and the confidence of winning here," said Federer.

"Definitely it changes it up if I were to make the final. But we're not there yet."

Federer, with five Wimbledon, five US Open and three Australian Open victories, has known nothing but heartache in Paris.

Nadal has swept past him in the last three finals while in 2004, the year before the Spaniard began his remarkable domination, Federer lost in the third round to an inspired former champion Gustavo Kuerten.

That defeat was the last time he failed to get at least to a semi-final at a Grand Slam.

Federer also insists that Nadal will be back and warns players like Robin Soderling, whose defeat of the champion sent shockwaves through tennis, they need to keep proving they can compete.

"It's not an easy task, because how often does it happen in your life?," said the world number two.

"It happens just a few times, and it's hard to back them up. I went through it when I beat Sampras at Wimbledon and then lost to Tim (Henman). I didn't play that bad against Tim, but you just realize that not only Sampras can play tennis, but Henman can and there are so many other players that play so well.

"Just because you beat this one particular player, it doesn't mean you're going to now beat everybody easily. You have to keep on playing dream tennis, and that's a hard thing to do sometimes."

Wednesday's second quarter-final sees fifth-seeded Argentine Del Potro facing Spanish 16th seed Robredo who is playing in his fourth last eight clash here.

This is Del Potro's first Roland Garros quarter-final and follows similar runs at the US Open and Australian Opens.

Del Potro, just 20 and the youngest man left in the men's tournament, takes a 1-0 career lead over the 27-year-old Robredo into his tie.

"He is specialized on clay, and so far his season has been excellent," said Del Potro.

Robredo reached the last eight here in 2003, 2005 and 2007 and the has the most claycourt wins this season with a 25-6 record.

"On Sunday, Rafa and Fernando (Verdasco) didn't have their best day and they lost. These things happen. But I'm not putting all 40 million Spaniards behind me, thinking that if I lose they are going to lose," said Robredo. 


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