Clay to shape Federer’s return
Swiss ace hoping to use his least-favoured surface as a tune-up to grass season
Swiss legend Roger Federer has never faced problems in switching from clay courts to grass and hopes his decision to play on his least favourite surface at Roland Garros will prove beneficial to his Wimbledon bid.
The Grand Slam on red clay has proved to be the least productive for the 39-year-old, who has won the title only once, and he has not competed at Roland Garros in four of the last five years due to injuries and scheduling preference.
After missing more than a year following two knee operations, Federer returned to the Tour in March, winning his first match in Qatar before losing his second.
He will kickstart his claycourt campaign at this week’s Geneva Open to prepare for the May 30-June 13 French Open.
Next on his schedule is the Wimbledon tune-up event in Halle, Germany, before the grass-court Grand Slam he has won eight times.
“I was happy that the knee didn’t feel any different from hard to clay, so I expect the same to go from clay to grass,” Federer told reporters yesterday.
“Since ’98, since we have the grass in my schedule, I’ve never really had any major issues going between surfaces.
“I think that the tennis player is used to these switches but of course, with an injury, there is always a little bit more concern, especially when you haven’t played as long as I have.”
As Federer gears up for his return to the Tour, his old rivals Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal played out a 2hr 49min final in Rome on Sunday, with Nadal claiming a 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 victory.
“I’m excited about the comeback, that’s what my focus needs to be on and not about trying to be at the same level as Rafa and Novak right now,” Federer said.
But the 20-time Grand Slam title winner added: “I believe I will be part of the top tier.”
Federer added he was impressed by the level of tennis on show during his absence from the Tour.
He said the so-called “Next Generation” of players such as Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev, Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev plus 2020 US Open winner Dominic Thiem would all prove a much tougher challenge now.
“One thing is for sure, I would expect that the generation of Tsitsipas, Zverev, Rublev, Medvedev have all again gotten better naturally because they have more experience,” he said.
“Dominic won a Slam in the meantime. Rafa, Novak are still where they are. You would think that the game has improved again. For me, that’s going to be an extra challenge, extra hard for me to find that level.”
Victory in Rome saw Nadal, 34, equal Djokovic’s tally of 36 ATP Masters 1000 trophies and claim a record-extending 10th title in the Italian capital.
The Spaniard, who suffered quarter-final exits at Masters 1000 events in Monte Carlo and Madrid, said he would rest for a few days back home before heading to Paris for his title defence.
“The 10th, I really wanted this 10th here in Rome. It was one of the first important titles that I won in my career,” said the Spaniard. “After achieving 10 in Roland Garros, 10 in MonteCarlo, 10 in Barcelona, I really wanted this one.
“I went through a lot of things during the week. Some positive, some great moments, some lucky moments, suffering moments. At the end, I think I played a very solid week of tennis, it’s the right moment to win an important title. – AFP, REUTERS