It seems like there are only two people competing at this year’s French Open, the opposing fortunes of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have completely dominated pre-tournament talk – it’s like nobody else exists.
Will Nadal be able to find a last-minute miracle cure to his dreadful form and fitness in time to stave off just a second defeat in his entire career at Roland Garros, or will Djokovic’s imperious form finally get him over the line in Paris to ensure he competes the Career Slam?
We may as well write our final previews already.
It’s a mark of the current predicament that the sport’s greatest-ever player, Roger Federer, is being interviewed about his rivals before being asked about his own chances of replicating his 2009 title; the only year that Nadal hasn’t won since becoming a professional player.
Is it a lack of respect for the 17-time Grand Slam champion? Or is it justified in what is expected to be a high-profile few weeks for tennis around the world?
Whatever the case may be, it would seem like Federer is quite happy to go under the radar.
On Sunday night, the lead story on the ATP’s website was of the 33-year-old’s predictions for upcoming tournament. Even though the quotes were held until the last paragraph, the Swiss legend batted away the question of his own chances.
"I don’t want to get myself too down because it was a good tournament for me...I really hope it's not just the two of them (Nadal and Djokovic)," Federer noted. "I hope there's going to be some other guys who will be a part of that group and I hope in particular myself."
It looks like a shrewd move from the man. He’s essentially managed to cool fan expectations and can now focus on his own game away from the cameras and photographers.
So does he have a chance? Well, it hasn’t been mentioned, but Federer is actually pretty well placed after his turnout at last week’s Rome Masters which saw him reach the final (obviously losing at the hands of Djokovic, but, then again, it doesn’t really matter who the Serb plays at the moment – he plays, he wins.)
In comfortable straight sets wins on the way to the final against Tomas Berdych and Stan Wawrinka, Federer has proved that he still has the upper hand over most of those players that you would expect to see in the second week of the Major, he wasn’t troubled en-route to that final.
Add his performance in the Italian capital to the silverware he won in Istanbul a few weeks, albeit in a low-key tournament, then you see that the idea of winning his 18th Grand Slam in a few weeks isn’t as out there as it may seem.
Obviously it will be tough for him maintain the levels – Australian youngster Nick Kyrgios blew him away in Madrid – and that is the reason why he has been without a Major since Wimbledon 2012.
However, for the first time in a long time, nobody is getting hung-up on Federer’s drought – most people expect him to end where he is. The pressure is firmly stacked on Djokovic, and Nadal to a lesser extent.
This new lease of life in the shadows my well suit Roger Federer.