World No. 1 Rafael Nadal has jokingly suggested that Roger Federer is avoiding playing him on clay.

A key factor in Federer's career resurgence last year was his controversial decision to skip the entire clay-court season. The Swiss legend never fared well on the surface compared to others and instead decided to use the time to heal his body up ahead of the grass-court season.

The decision eventually paid dividends as along with his Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami Open titles, Federer went on to win at the Halle Open along with a record-breaking eighth Wimbledon crown.

After winning the Australian Open yet again this year, Federer revealed last month he was considering playing during the clay swing and wanted to test him against Nadal.

"I still think he is the best player on clay and that he will always be the best player in history on clay," Federer said. "But I would love to play against Rafa on the ground, at the best of five sets." 

"It depends on what I want to do, how to avoid the injury, what my head tells me to do,ā€ he had said adding that whether he plays or not on the ground this season "does not depend on the presence or absence of Rafa (Nadal) and Novak (Djokovic)."ā€‹

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal Roger Federer has defeated Rafael Nadal in their last five meetings, but none of them were on clay. Pictured: Roger Federer of Switzerland talks with Rafael Nadal of Spain during the award ceremony after the Men's singles final match on day eight of 2017 ATP Shanghai Rolex Masters at Qizhong Stadium in Shanghai, China, Oct. 15, 2017. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

However, after losses at Indian Wells and Miami, the 36-year-old announced he would yet again skip the entire clay-court season and return in June for the grass swing. In doing so, Nadal joked that Federer was "maybe a little contradictory" especially after hinting at playing on clay this year.

"He said he'd love to play me again in a best-of-five on clay so I thought he'd play Roland Garros, and two days later he said he's not playing on clay," Nadal said with a grin, as quoted on Yahoo. "Maybe a little contradictory."

Nadal has lost his last five matches against Federer, four of which came last year, though none of the losses came on clay. The Spaniard boasts a 23-15 head-to-heard record against Federer with an impressive 13-2 record on clay with their last meeting on the surface coming in 2013.

Regardless of Federer's absence, Nadal will look to kickstart his season after an injury-prone 2018 so far. The 31-year-old last played competitively in the Australian Open quarterfinal in January before retiring in the fifth set with a hip injury.

Rafael Nadal Rafael Nadal will return to competitive action for the first time since January this week. Pictured: Rafael Nadal of Spain speaks to the media during an interview session during day one of ATP Masters Series: Monte Carlo Rolex Master at Monte-Carlo Sporting Club in Monaco, April 15, 2018. Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Nadal returned to action at the Davis Cup earlier this month and will now play at the Monte-Carlo Masters this week as he looks to defend his clay points from last year and remain atop the rankings.

"Iā€™m practicing well, I am playing with the right intensity I think," Nadal said during a media appointment, as per the Telegraph.

Nadal has a bye into the second round and will face the winner of Aljaz Bedene or Mirza Basic on Wednesday with the two players meeting on Monday in their first-round clash.