| Justine Henin-Hardenne with Steffi Graf at Roland Garros on Sunday. (Reuters)
Paris: Roger Federer has shrugged off the hovering menace of Rafael Nadal to insist he has his greatest opportunity to win an elusive French Open crown when the second Grand Slam tournament of the season starts here on Monday.
The 23-year-old world No.1 has a mediocre record on the Roland Garros clay courts. In six visits, he has never got beyond the quarter finals and has lost in the first round three times.
Last year, his hopes ended in the third round where the banana skin draw of triple champion Gustavo Kuerten turned out to be a booby-trap as the Brazilian cruised to victory in straight sets.
Twelve months on, top-seed Federer is favourite again and has been handed a gentle draw before a potential semi-final clash with the 18-year-old Nadal.
“I don’t see it as being such an unbelievably tough draw, I’m not worried about playing anybody,” said Federer who faces a qualifier in his opener before a potential fourth round clash with former champion Carlos Moya.
“People might think it’s tough because Nadal is in my section. That would be in the semi-finals. So if I am there, I will be very happy.”
Nadal is not the only threat to Federer from becoming just the sixth man ever to win all four Grand Slam tournaments.
Other dangers include defending champion Gaston Gaudio, 2004 runner-up Guillermo Coria as well as world No.2 Andy Roddick and evergreen former champion Andre Agassi.
But Richard Gasquet and Marat Safin, the only two men who have beaten Federer this year, cannot be discounted from upsetting the Swiss who, nevertheless, warmed up for Paris by defending his Hamburg Masters title last week without dropping a set. (AFP)