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Friday, Sep 22, 2017
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Federer finally gets to defend in Paris

PARIS - Plenty of tennis tournaments, big and small, ask Roger Federer to participate in their draw ceremonies - show up, shake some hands, pose for a few photos, lend prestige. He has a ready response. "I always say, 'No,'" the 16-time major champion said, "just because I don't want to be a part of it." At this year's French Open, he did not have a choice in the matter. The French Open always invites the previous year's male and female champions to help determine the brackets by reaching into the tournament's silver trophies, randomly selecting numbers assigned to players. Finally, he was eligible. So there he was Friday at Roland Garros, wearing a dark blazer, crisp collared shirt and jeans. Smiling for the cameras. Pulling numbers out of a trophy. Performing, finally, the duties of the French Open's defending champ.
Arriving on site this year "felt different because I have so many great memories from this court now, whereas in the past, I mean, I played good matches, but I couldn't come back and think, 'This is where I've had my most emotional wins in my career.' I didn't. They were all at Wimbledon or U.S. Open or other places," Federer said. Stepping on court the past few days has allowed him to relive what happened in 2009 - the nerves that nearly overwhelmed him before serving for the last time in the final against Robin Soderling or the sensation of dropping to his knees after winning match point. And he is thrilled to never be asked again the sorts of question he was pelted with countless times before last year: Why haven't you won the French Open? "If anything, I feel a little less pressure because I've proven it to myself - and maybe to many other people," Federer said. "I feel like I'm entering the tournament in the right spirit."
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