Roger Federer calls on Rafael Nadal to return and make history

• Swiss star has not beaten Rafael Nadal on clay in four years • ‘Come on, you have to love clay, it’s what I love,’ says Federer

“Teary” Roger Federer has called on Rafael Nadal to return to Roland Garros to win the title he once shared with his late coach, Severin Luthi.

Speaking before his latest match on clay, against Paolo Lorenzi, a French Open semi-finalist two years ago, the 35-year-old said: “I hope this time it’s Severin’s turn. Coming back to Roland Garros, that’s what he did, with me, in 2009.

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“Come on, you have to love clay, it’s what I love,” said Federer. “To see them win and break the record. They did that the other year, which is special to me and I know they would like to do it again.”

Nadal, who is seeking a record 11th French Open title, leads the all-time list with 15 grand slam titles and is bidding to match tennis’s Golden Boot record of 18 when he plays fellow Spaniard Dominic Thiem on Sunday. Federer lost to the 18-times grand slam winner on both of their past appearances at Roland Garros, in the 2009 final and in the semi-finals last year.

Federer’s ninth loss at the hands of the world No1 on clay, since falling to him in the 2009 final at Roland Garros, was the greatest of all, he said. “The worst one, by far, was [in] 2013 in Rome,” said Federer. “No I’m not even going to go there, it’s just so hard to believe. Last year was OK, this year was not great. I had it in my mind that the points would swing back my way, that was a good feeling going into the final.”

Federer won his 18th grand slam title at the Australian Open in January. He is the oldest man to hold the world No1 ranking since Australian Ken Rosewall, who was 34 years and 238 days old when he won the 1972 Australian Open. Nadal equalled the record of 11 grand slam titles set by the great Pete Sampras, before losing it back to the American last week.

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