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The Roger Federer photo that has stunned the tennis world

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When Roger Federer announced he would be returning to the French Open for the first time since 2016, no one knew what to expect from him on the court.

But one thing was never in doubt: fans are ready to see the legend play on the red clay.

Even the Swiss maestro, however, was surprised at the anticipation surrounding his first practice session on Saturday.

Federer will kick off his French Open campaign with a first-round clash against Italian Lorenzo Sonego on Sunday night AEST.

"I'm very happy to be back, maybe a tiny bit more because when I have missed the last three editions, and when you miss something in life, you're happy to be back there again,” he said.

But one might have confused his practice hit with Jeremy Chardy as his official return, such was the frenzy around the court.

Fans flocked to Court Suzanne Lenglen to watch the 20-time grand slam winner practice.

It seemed even Federer was taken aback with the amount of support at the practice hit, taking to social media after to thank everyone for the incredible atmosphere.

“What a crowd, wow,” he wrote on Twitter.

The 37-year-old will be looking to wrestle the trophy out of Rafael Nadal’s grips with the Spaniard aiming for his 12th Roland Garros title.

But world No.1 Novak Djokovic will be doing his best to win his second French Open and become the second man in history to twice hold all four grand slam titles at the same time.

Federer has played down his chances of winning the title, although 73rd-ranked Sonego, making his main draw debut at Roland Garros having lost in qualifying last year, should not cause him undue alarm as he reacquaints himself with his surroundings.

"Center court looks very different. There has been a lot of upgrades and investments made," Federer said.

"But I feel it is still the old Roland Garros, it's kept its flair and everything."

with Reuters

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