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Originally published May 25, 2013 at 5:49 PM | Page modified May 25, 2013 at 6:42 PM

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Durable Roger Federer to play in 54th straight major tournament | Tennis

When the French Open starts Sunday, Roger Federer will be participating in his 54th consecutive major tennis tournament, a run that began with the Australian Open in January 2000.

The Associated Press

No. 1 women's player

SERENA WILLIAMS

Age: 31

Major titles: 15

On a career-high 24-match winning streak that includes titles on European red clay at Madrid and Rome.

No. 1 men's player

NOVAK DJOKOVIC

Age: 26

Major titles: 6

Trying to become the eighth man with a career Grand Slam; calls the French Open the most important tournament of the year for him.

At a glance

2013's second Grand Slam tennis tournament

Site: Roland Garros in Paris.

Surface: Red clay.

Schedule: 15-day tournament begins today. Women's singles final June 8; men's singles final June 9.

TV: ESPN2, Tennis Channel, Ch. 5

Defending singles champions: Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova

By the numbers

52-1 Nadal's career record at the French Open. His only loss came in 2009, against Robin Soderling in the fourth round.

30 The number of years since a man from France (Yannick Noah, the father of current NBA Chicago Bulls player Joakim Noah) won the country's major tennis tournament — or any Grand Slam singles title.

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PARIS — Perhaps not surprisingly, the first three questions posed to Roger Federer at his pre-French Open news conference Friday concerned rival and nemesis Rafael Nadal.

The third was about the difficulties of making a successful return from injury, the way Nadal has, reaching the final at all eight tournaments he has played in 2013 after going more than half a year between matches.

Federer shrugged and replied simply: "I don't know. I have never been out for seven months."

No, he hasn't. Federer is always around, particularly at Grand Slam time. When the French Open starts Sunday, the Swiss superstar will be participating in his 54th consecutive major tournament, a run that began with the Australian Open in January 2000. That is the longest such streak among active players; no one else comes within two years of Federer.

"For me, it's just something I just kept on doing. Now here we are," said the 31-year-old Federer, who is seeded No. 2 in Paris and was drawn Friday to face qualifiers in each of the first two rounds.

"It's incredible. I never thought I was going to play that many, have that many opportunities to do well at the Slams. And clearly I'm happy about it, but they don't buy me victories, you know? But it shows maybe great stamina and (an) injury-free career ... "

Federer's record 17 major titles include the 2009 French Open.

Nadal, who has dealt with recurring knee problems, will be back in Grand Slam action after nearly a year's absence from the four most important tournaments in tennis. At least the Spaniard is in the field at Roland Garros, something Andy Murray of Britain and Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina can't say. Both of those past U.S. Open champions and current top-10 players withdrew because of health issues.

Federer's record this year is 18-6, below his standard. He enters the French Open without a title earlier in the season for the first time since 2000, his second full year on Tour.

Yet he said, "I'm at the level I want to have for this tournament."

Federer, a father of twin girls, tweaked his schedule this year to give himself a break. He skipped the hardcourt event in Key Biscayne, Fla., and went nearly two months — from March 14 to May 7 — between matches.

"For me, it's important to stay injury-free, to give myself time," he said, "so when I come back, I'm fresh and motivated."

Federer doesn't merely show up at Grand Slam tournaments: He has reached at least the quarterfinals at the last 35 — and earlier put together runs of 23 consecutive semifinals and 10 consecutive finals.

If he plays at Wimbledon, where he is the defending champion, and then the U.S. Open this season, Federer will tie the record of 56 major tournaments in a row set by South Africa's Wayne Ferreira from 1991 to 2004.

"There's no shortcuts in best-of-five-set matches, and that's where I think I was always up for the challenge," Federer said.

"I'm very happy that I was able to do that for so long so far."

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