One of the biggest stories this upcoming clay season is the return of Roger Federer to the slippery surface. The Swiss hasn’t hit a ball on dirt since a loss to Dominic Thiem almost three years ago at 2016 Rome, so it’s not surprising Federer, despite an 18-2 start to the year, is downplaying his chances on the clay.
“I’m not very confident going into this clay court season, I can tell you that,” Federer said Sunday after his 4th Miami title. “I don’t even remember how to slide anymore. You know, I’m taking baby steps at this point.
“I didn’t play one point, not one shot on clay, I don’t believe, last year. Two years ago I played two days. Three years ago I played not feeling great in Monaco and Rome and all that. So it’s been so little that I really don’t know what to expect.”
He did say that the Miami title and results to this point, which gave him the lead in the ATP race as the clay season begins, will help with the transition.
“I think what this win does for me, it just takes even more pressure off from the clay court season. And I anyway wanted to play the clay in not a relaxed fashion but let’s just go and do it and prepare well. That’s what I’m looking at now the next four or five weeks with my fitness coach and coaches Ivan and Severin and Pierre, figuring out how we gonna go about it.”
Federer’s pre-french plan right now on the clay is only Madrid where the balls tend to fly faster in the altitude, helping servers like him. He’ll have a solid month off before that event.
“Obviously I want to be ready for Paris. I hope all of that work is going to pay off for the grass court season and also for the hard court season. Already just how I’ve been playing here and moving here makes me believe just going on vacation now, a bit of a break, and then preparation, you know, the things physically should be fine, but again, we’ll see how the body is going to react.”
And would an early exit in Madrid result in playing Rome? We’ll see, but Federer and his fans have to be thrilled the 37-year-old is back on clay, perhaps for a final time.
“I’m very excited. It’s a good challenge, good test. Confidence, I don’t know, it’s in no-man’s land. It’s just there if I play well. I don’t know. I have to gain it all again. Start from scratch, really.”
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