Nadal said after his three-set win over Ernests Gulbis that he would have to change his normal strategy against the Swiss because his movement was still limited due to a sore knee. The Spaniard returned to the tour last month after seven months off due to knee trouble. Nadal is currently 15-1 with two clay-court titles in his comeback.
“He's not going to come back if he's not well,” said Federer, who is dealing with a back injury. “He's not going to come back half broken. I expected him to tear through the clay. I expected him to be tough here, which he shows to be. No question, he's a bit careful at times with his movement. That's totally normal. [He] hasn't played for some time on hard court. I don't know if it's careful or if it's just getting used to it again. But we're talking about slow clay courts. He can return from way back in the court.
“It's not like on a hard court where you have to react super-fast. And even that would be no problem for him, otherwise he wouldn't have come back on tour. So I don't understand the talk in the first place after the three tournaments he played on clay.”
Federer, who is not scheduled to play again until Madrid in May, left the door slightly open to changing his schedule.
“I'll probably maintain my schedule, but you never know,” he said.