Paris: Rafa Nadal used to mess with his head, ruffle his feathers and on occasions even make him cry, but no-one will be happier to see the Mallorcan rekindle his love affair with Roland Garros more than Roger Federer.
When the French Open begins on Sunday the men`s drawsheet will have a familiar look with Swiss world number one Federer and his claycourt nemesis separated by 126 other players -- six wins each away from an eighth grand slam final clash.
Twelve months ago Nadal`s lock on Roland Garros was cracked by Sweden`s Robin Soderling in a stunning fourth-round loss and Federer slid through the door to claim the elusive major he craved.
It completed his career slam and as the Swiss marched on to claim a record breaking 15th major at Wimbledon a few weeks later, Nadal watched from afar in Spain, the tendonitis in his knees casting doubts over his career and his off-court harmony shattered by his parents split.
Suddenly a classic rivalry that had elevated men`s tennis to supreme new heights looked in jeopardy.
Nadal`s aura faded to such an extent that after returning in Montreal he failed to win a title for the rest of the year and when he was outgunned by Briton Andy Murray in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open this year many thought his swashbuckling days were behind him at the age of 23.
Thankfully, talk of his demise was greatly exaggerated and the reassuring feel of red dust under his feet has re-ignited Nadal`s engines and after dropping just 14 games on his way to a sixth successive Monte Carlo title last month the world knew that Rafa was back.