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Tennis: Federer raring to go after two-month break

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Roger Federer believes his two-month break from competing on the ATP Tour will help him as he prepares for a hectic few months between now and the US Open in September.

The 17-time Grand Slam winner last played in Indian Wells where he was hampered by a back injury as he went out to Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals.

"It took me a little time to get over my back issue from Indian Wells, but at the same time, that clashed with my vacation anyway, which was okay," he told a press conference on Sunday ahead of defending his Madrid Masters title.

"Now I feel good. Obviously extremely excited about being back on tour and entering all the tournaments from here through to the US Open really, so it's going to be a long stretch and you want to be ready for it."

Federer seemed to be the least affected by the controversial blue clay used at last year's event where he went on to win for a record third time in Madrid.

But he welcomed the change back to the traditional red clay and joined Nadal in describing the surfaces at the Caja Magica as the best they have ever been.

"There was a lot of criticism about the colour, about the quality of the court as well, being extremely slippery," said the world number two.

"I don't know if that was due to the colour, but this tournament has in the past had issues with the quality of the court. I think through what happened last year with the controversy around the blue clay, it was a big eye opener to have a proper court here now.

"I think this year, from what I'm hearing from the players, it's a good quality court and the players are happy. In the process, hopefully we'll see better tennis this year."

World number one Novak Djokovic joined in the praise of the new courts, but refused to get drawn into a debate over whether he was favourite to lift the title in the Spanish capital or at the French Open next month.

The Serb dethroned Nadal after an eight-year reign at his last outing in Monte Carlo, prompting many to believe he could complete the career Grand Slam at Roland Garros where his Spanish rival is a record seven-time champion.

"The court is great. The one where I practiced is great. I haven't practiced on the centre court yet, but I'll try to do that tonight to get a little feel about it," said Djokovic.

"But also from the opinions of the other players I can hear only positive comments, so it's great to see that."

First up though Djokovic could face a tricky first round opponent in Grigor Dimitrov who took a set off Nadal before losing in the Monte Carlo quarter-finals last month.

The world number 29 faces Spanish qualifier Javier Marti in the first round, and Djokovic expects a tough test should the Bulgarian get through.

"I've played him in Indian Wells and he's very talented player. He has the capacity to play at a very, very high level. He's an all-round player, and he has showed it," said Djokovic.

"There is an altitude here, 500, 600 meters, which helps the servers and more aggressive players. The ball travels through the air faster, so that can make Dimitrov very dangerous."

World number three Andy Murray had a disappointing start to his claycourt season in Monte Carlo as he was swept aside by Stanislas Wawrinka in the third round.

"On grass and hard courts I've played very well over the last year," said US Open and Olympic champion Murray, who has never won a claycourt title.

"The clay has been still the most challenging surface for me, but I've played some good matches and beaten some tough players; at the French Open I made the second week there a few times; made the semis.

"I feel like I'm a better player now than I was then."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130505/tennis-federer-raring-go-after-two-month-break