World No.1 Rafael Nadal said on Friday that the absence of Switzerland's Roger Federer from French Open did not detract from what could become his 11th title at Roland Garros. For the second year in a row, Federer opted to quit the entire clay season, where Nadal is always the favorite, to focus on grass court-play, which kicks off in June.
"It (a possible victory) would be the same, whether Roger was there or not," Nadal said at a press conference prior to Roland Garros, which begins on May 27.
Nadal stressed that Federer's absence was "bad news for the tournament, not for me."
The 16-time Grand Slam champion said he was aware of the danger his first-round rival Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine could pose, despite having a 7-2 lead in their head-to-head record.
Nadal will focus more on maintaining his competitivenes, rather than on keeping the World No. 1 position, ahead of his possible 11th title at Roland Garros.
"My feeling is of course better to be No. 1 than be No. 2 or No. 5, but the most important thing is to feel myself competitive to play all events that I want to play and to feel myself really to have success in these important events," Nadal told a press conference on Friday.
Nadal returned to world No. 1 with his success at the ATP Rome Masters. The top position has been changed in hands between Nadal and his arch rival Roger Federer four times since the year started.
"After a very tough beginning of the season with two injuries in the same place, now I feel good. I came back and played a lot of matches well, having success since I came back in Davis Cup," said Nadal.
Nadal came back to Roland Garros with a record of 19-1 on clay court this year. The "King of Clay" is well-poised for his record-extending 11th trophy in Paris, as several potential threats were slotted into a different half.
"Every tournament is different," he admitted, adding that "here we are to try our best, have good days of practice before the tournament starts, and be very competitive for the beginning."
Nadal has noticed the rise of a handful of talented players in recent years, represented by second-seeded Alexander Zverev and Austrian Dominic Thiem.
"I cannot predict what's going on, but there is a generation of players with a lot of talent and great potential to become big stars of this sport. Let's see how things happen in the next couple of months or years," he added.
Nadal will kick off his title defence at Roland Garros against Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine.