Pablo Andujar has played Novak Djokovic twice (0-2) and Rafael Nadal four times (0-4). On Tuesday, the Spaniard will get his first crack at Roger Federer in the second round of the Gonet Geneva Open.
“[I am] really, really excited. It was something that I wanted, to have a match against Roger, just to tell my kids and my grandkids when I get older that I played him,” Andujar said. “This is something that for a long time I was looking for. I played Rafa, I played Novak, and I had to close that gap. I knew I was not going to have as many opportunities because years go on. I’m really excited and really happy to play Roger, and in Switzerland as well.”
The 35-year-old has won four ATP Tour titles and climbed as high as No. 32 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. Andujar has competed in big matches against the world’s best players, and he still gets excited for opportunities like this.
“I think when you play Rafa, Novak and Roger, these guys became myths. [They are] something above the sport,” Andujar said. “Of course the elegance that Roger has is something amazing and that [is] in all the tennis schools, we see him with the technique and everything. But I would say that the most important is that they grew the sport and now they are above the sport. They are like something else.”
Federer is playing just his second tournament since the 2020 Australian Open after undergoing two arthroscopic right knee surgeries. The Swiss lost in the Doha quarter-finals in March.
“I feel sympathy with all of the players that have been struggling with long-term injuries and of course Roger is one of them. I know how difficult it is because sometimes you try to come back and then it hurts. At least for me it [did], and you have a lot of doubts,” Andujar admitted. “For sure, it’s very difficult for your mentality. But I think with the level he’s got and how he plays, if he is 100 per cent fit, he is going to be Roger Federer once again. In that sense, it will probably not be as hard as it was for me to come back to my level.”
Andujar is no stranger to comebacks, having had three right elbow surgeries in a 13-month span between March 2016 and April 2017. In 2018, the Spaniard won his first ATP Tour title post-injury in Marrakech.
“Of course when you come back after a long time without playing, you don’t feel the same way as when you’ve played a lot of matches in the past weeks. But we’re talking about Roger Federer, we’re not talking about Pablo Andujar, and that is probably the big difference,” Andujar said. “He’s somebody who is so talented, even if he hasn’t played so many matches, I think he can play tomorrow as well as he did two or three years ago.”
Andujar has shared the court with the former World No. 1 before. More than a decade ago, he recalls hitting with Federer at Roland Garros when the Swiss was under the tutelage of coach Jose Higueras. The Spaniard also remembers warming up Federer as a sparring partner when the Mutua Madrid Open was played on hard courts.
“Even if I’m old, I was a kid [then],” Andujar said. “And he was already on the top.”