Tennis

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.”

IMPRESSED  

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

Tennis