Roger Federer returns to clay… and will participate in the French Open
He’s won an all-time record 20 Grand Slam titles and reached 30 finals, but after a three-year absence, Roger Federer has returned to the clay court and is set to make a surprise appearance in the Italian Open, having just made the quarter-finals of the Madrid Open.
Madrid Open comeback
He made his comeback on clay in style, beating France’s Richard Gasquet in second-round straight sets: 6-2, 6-3. It only took the 37-year-old 53 minutes to overcome his opponent and afterwards, the third-seed said: “It feels good to be back on the clay now and I enjoy it, to be honest,
“Once the decision was upon me again for this year, if I would have skipped the clay again, I think I would have felt like that’s not the right decision”
“I would have always felt regrets not being on the clay in 2019 because my knee problem is far enough away now”.
The three-time Madrid champion received a huge ovation when taking to the court and his fans, who no doubt believed he wouldn’t return to La Caja Mágica, rose again when he won so convincingly.
He clearly had nothing to worry about after so long away from the court, following up with victory over French fifteenth-seed Gaël Monfils in the round of 16: 6-0, 6-4, 7-6; before losing out to Austria’s Dominic Thiem in the quarter-finals: 3-6, 7-6, 6-4.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) May 7, 2019
A surprise return to clay
Federer was making his return to clay for the first time since he lost to Them in the 2016 Rome Masters. He went on to miss the French Open that year due to a back injury. In order to preserve his body, he decided to sit out the clay season the two following years.
The surprise announcement came earlier this year, after a shock fourth-round defeat in the Australian Open. Federer told reporters: “I’m in a phase where I want to have fun,
“I didn’t have the feeling (this year) that it was necessary to make a long break. I will play at Roland-Garros”.
The clay court season is often deemed the most demanding and in the lead-up to the French Open, which begins on May 27, there are three ATP Masters 1000 events: the Monte-Carlo Masters, and the Madrid and Italian Open.
He may have only won one French Open title, but in French Open 2019 betting, Federer is up there as one of the favorites. In total, Federer has reached five finals and interestingly, his four final defeats have all came against the “King of Clay”, Rafael Nadal.
It was in 2009 that Federer tasted success in the clay Grand Slam, beating Robin Söderling 6-1, 7-6, 6-4. The Swede had previously caused a massive upset, knocking-out Nadal (the four-time defending champion) in the fourth-round.
Since his win, Federer has made a further three quarter-finals, a semi-final and a final. His worst finish came in 2014, when he got knocked-out in the fourth-round by Latvian Ernests Gulbis, who was then the eighteenth-seed. In spite of this, Federer is often considered the second greatest clay player, behind Nadal – and has a win percentage of 75.8%.
He faces a lot of strong opposition this year, with the likes of Novak Djokovic and Nadal ahead of him in the world rankings. But stats and the transition back onto clay doesn’t phase the former world number one:
“I haven’t played on clay for three years so maybe for the first time in 15 years I can go to Roland Garros and be like, ‘Let’s just see what happens.’ And maybe that’s exactly what is going to make a beautiful result. And if it’s not, no problem.”