Rafa Nadal has made the extraordinary admission that he is expecting Roger Federer to play on for a number of years to come.
Federer, who turned 41 last month, has missed every grand slam in 2022 and eight of the past 10 majors as he continues his recovery from more knee surgery last year.
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The 20-time grand slam champion hasn't played since losing in the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2021 and has since lost his official ATP ranking due to the lengthy absence.
However the Swiss maestro has slowly been working his way back to full fitness and will make his return at the Laver Cup in September, where he will play alongside Nadal for Team Europe.
Federer has also committed to playing in Basel in October in what will be his first official ATP event in 16 months.
While many are expecting Federer to announce his retirement at some stage this year, Nadal doesn't see it that way.
Speaking to reporters at the US Open this weekend, Nadal reckons we'll be seeing Federer for a number of years to come.
"Super excited to see Roger again on court, of course," Nadal said ahead of his own return to the US Open following a three-year absence.
"I hope he's healthy enough to make that happen. Yeah, let's see. Has been a long period of time without Roger on court so I really hope that he can manage to be back.
"The most important thing at this stage of his career is the health and the happiness, no?
"If he's healthy enough and happy enough to be back to the tennis tour, (it) will be amazing.
"If not, we just can say thanks to him for everything that he achieved. (But) I am confident that we will keep having Roger for a while."
Speaking to the crowd at Wimbledon in June, Federer also hinted that he plans to keep playing next year.
“I hope I can come back one more time. I’ve missed it here," he said.
"Of course I've missed being here. I would have loved to be here. I knew walking out here last year, it was going to be a tough year ahead.
"Maybe didn't think it was going to take me this long to come back. But the knee has been rough on me.
"I didn't know if I should make the trip, but I'm happy standing right here, right now.
"Just tried to be successful here and represent the sport well. I hope I did that and I hope I can come back ... one more time."
Rafa Nadal returns to US Open after three years
Nadal chose not to travel to the US Open in 2020 and then missed out with a foot problem last year.
He is yet to lose a best-of-five sets match this season but is well short on match practice, having only competed once since being forced out of Wimbledon ahead of the semi-finals with an abdominal tear.
"It's a tough injury because it's dangerous, it's risky," Nadal said about the injury ahead of the US Open.
"When you have a scar, it's a place that you put in a lot of effort when you are serving. You need to find flexibility again.
"I am doing things the best way that I can. I hope to be ready for the action. That's the only thing that I can say.
"With the tools that I have today, I hope to be competitive enough to give myself a chance."
With Novak Djokovic absent due to his vaccination status, Nadal is chasing a sixth US Open title that would take him to 23 overall.
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