Tennis

Federer to skip clay-court season after Miami exit

World No. 1 will also lose his top ranking to Nadal after being knocked out by Kokkinakis

Roger Federer won’t go for a 21st Grand Slam title at the French Open.

The 36-year-old Swiss great said he’ll skip the clay-court season after losing to Australia's Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round of the Miami Masters on Sunday morning (Singapore time) .

The world No. 1 confirmed the plan after falling 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) to qualifier Kokkinakis.

“I decided not to play the clay season,” said Federer, who won his 20th Grand Slam tournament at the Australian Open in January, but will lose the world No. 1 ranking to Rafael Nadal after his shock defeat.

It’s the second straight year that Federer will forego a clay-court campaign.

Last year, after winning back-to-back tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami, he took a break, returning in mid-June at the grass court tournament in Stuttgart.

He lost his first match there, but went on to win at Halle and Wimbledon.

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His early exit at Miami leaves the men’s tournament wide open.

With six-time Miami Open winner Novak Djokovic also exiting early, the likes of second seed Maric Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov (3), and Indian Wells winner Juan Martin del Potro (5) will all fancy their chances over the week.

Alexander Zverev will also be in the mix but the German fourth seed had a close shave, needing three sets to advance past Russian Daniil Medvedev 6-4 1-6 7-6(5), while Denis Shapovalov also moved on by defeating Bosnian Damir Dzumhur.

Kokkinakis had trained with Federer but had never played the Swiss previously.

With his vicious forehand dialled in, the Australian was able to wear down Federer.

A disappointed Federer said he just could not raise his game.

“Sometimes you have these matches,” he said. “Sometimes you find a way through. I just couldn’t get it done today.”

His mood contrasted sharply with an ecstatic Kokkinakis.

“When I feel like I am playing on my terms, I don’t think there’s too many people who can go with me,” the 21-year-old said.

Fernando Verdasco will be Kokkinakis’s next opponent after the Spaniard rallied from a set down to beat countryman Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 4-6, 6-0, 6-2.

Zverev needed more than two hours to prevail over Russian Medvedev, taking his ninth consecutive deciding-set tie-break victory, and will next face David Ferrer.

Canadian 18-year-old Shapovalov breezed through the first set in 24 minutes agasint Dzumhur and led by a break twice in the second before breaking for the fifth time at 5-5 and serving out the 6-1, 7-5 victory. He will next face Borna Coric of Croatia. – AFP, REUTERS

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