MADRID • Roger Federer has announced that he is pulling out of the French Open, ending his streak of 65 consecutive appearances at Grand Slam tournaments.
The Swiss tennis great wrote on his Facebook page yesterday: "I regret to announce that I have made the decision not to play in this year's French Open.
"I have been making steady progress with my overall fitness, but I am still not 100 per cent, and feel I might be taking an unnecessary risk by playing in this event before I am really ready.
"This decision was not easy to make, but I took it to ensure I could play the remainder of the season and help to extend the rest of my career. I remain as motivated and excited as ever and my plan is to achieve the highest level of fitness before returning to the ATP World Tour for the upcoming grass court season."
The world No. 3 had won the claycourt Major just once in his career, in 2009 when he defeated Sweden's Robin Soderling in the final.
Meanwhile, his great rival Rafael Nadal has insisted that capturing a record-extending 10th French Open title next month is not a personal obsession.
The Spaniard has a 70-2 record at Roland Garros. But his grip on the clay-court title was loosened last year in the quarter-finals by world No. 1 Novak Djokovic amid his worst season in a decade.
"It's a special tournament for me and is always a highlight on the calendar but without obsession," the world No. 5 told Cadena Ser radio.
"The important thing is that I enjoy the tournament. I feel competitive against everybody and that's what makes me happy."
He will not be favourite for this edition, which gets underway on Sunday, but he remains a danger, having recently won the clay-court titles at Monte Carlo and Barcelona.
Djokovic is favoured to win in Paris, and the Serb's coach Boris Becker admitted that his charge is relishing the challenge of completing a career Grand Slam.
Djokovic is the only man in the top 10 in career French Open match victories (48-11) without the title.
"He lost in the (final) to Stan (Wawrinka) last year, but the crowd really appreciated his sportsmanship at the end and his fair play," Becker said.
"I think the overriding feeling is a good one. He's looking forward to the challenge."
NEW YORK TIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE