Tennis

Federer: 'Scheduling is key to my longevity'

Federer to skip French Open to focus on grass and hardcourt

Roger Federer has pulled out of this month's French Open as he feels he needs to avoid playing on clay this season in order to prolong his career, the 18-time Grand Slam champion said yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The Swiss, who defied logic to win the Australian Open in January after being out of tennis for six months, will skip the May 28-June 11 clay-court Major for the second year running after missing last year's edition through injury.

"I've been working really hard, both on and off the court, during the last month but, in order to try and play on the ATP World Tour for many years to come, I feel it's best to skip the clay-court season this year and prepare for the grass and hardcourt seasons," world No. 5 Federer, who won his sole Roland Garros title in 2009, said on his Facebook page.

"The start to the year has been magical for me, but I need to recognise that scheduling will be the key to my longevity moving forward.

"Thus, my team and I concluded today that playing just one event on clay was not in the best interest of my tennis and physical preparation for the remainder of the season."

Federer, 35, has already won the three biggest titles of the year to date as he followed his triumph in Australia with wins at Indian Wells and the Miami Open.

After that stunning run, Federer, who missed the second half of last year recovering from knee surgery, said that he would likely skip the European clay-court season except for the French Open.

The former world No. 1's announcement came a day after Rafael Nadal won his third consecutive clay-court title of the season ahead of the French Open, where the Spaniard will be bidding for his 10th Roland Garros title.

Federer will now focus on being in top form for Wimbledon, which begins on July 3 and where he is a seven-time champion.

Former world No. 2 Alex Corretja of Spain said that Federer and Nadal have rediscovered their blistering form this season because they were able to recharge during injury layoffs last year.

"Everyone is surprised that Roger and Rafa have returned, but I think the key is that they have been able to stop," Corretja told TennisWorld website.

"The moment they have been able to stop and refresh themselves, they have found that strength again."

Corretja said world No. 1 Andy Murray and No. 2 Novak Djokovic are showing signs of wear and tear.

"Andy lacks that freshness and Djokovic is three quarters of the same," he said.

"Although they have played fewer games, they really lack a little mental freshness."

"When they are playing, those efforts take their toll."

Meanwhile, former world 
No. 1 Maria Sharapova says she is not looking too far ahead after returning from a doping suspension but concedes she is eager to be competing for the biggest titles in tennis again.

The 30-year-old beat Christina McHale 6-4, 6-2 in the first round of the Italian Open on Monday to guarantee herself a spot in the Wimbledon qualifying tournament.

She faces a battle to raise her ranking enough to qualify for the grasscourt Grand Slam by right and spare organisers the dilemma of whether to award her a wildcard into the main draw of the tournament she won in 2004.

The Russian is returning from a 15-month doping ban after testing positive for the heart drug meldonium at last year's Australian Open.

Since her return last month, Sharapova has received wildcard entries to the Stuttgart, Madrid and Italian Opens.

"I certainly have expectations of myself... when you have won big events and you have been No. 1 in the world, you know that feeling," said Sharapova.

"So that feeling ultimately stays inside of you... and you know what you work for.

"I would love to experience those feelings again.

"Of course, that is my goal.

"But, as I said, every week is important... I might have not played my best tennis, but I set up an opportunity to play another match and to hopefully improve in that match, and that's what I need." - REUTERS

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