MADRID: As far as comebacks go, it was pretty much a fairytale for Roger Federer at the Caja Magica on Tuesday evening.
Playing his first competitive match on the clay since May 12th, 2016, the 36-year-old disposed of Richard Gasquet in just 52 minutes. Sending out warnings to the rest of the field there. The movement was good, drop-shots was timed well and he won almost three quarters (73%) of his service points. Inevitably there was also signs of rust and mistakes, but there was a lot for Federer fans to celebrate.
After his glory, Federer covered a wide range of topics during his press conference in Madrid. Including his return to clay, renewing his rivalry with Nadal and his prospects at the upcoming French Open.
With a lot of information to process, here are three things Ubitennis has learned from the 36-year-old.
1. He didn’t exactly miss the clay
When you return to playing on a surface for the first time in almost three years, one would assume that it is because you missed it. However, for Federer, it is a somewhat different scenario.
“Not too much, to be quite honest with you. I’d love to tell you, I miss it so much.” He commented about his absence from clay.
So why did he chose to return? For the 20-time grand slam champion, it was more about having no regrets than anything else. Sensing that if he chose to skip it for a later year, it may come back and haunt him in the future.
“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.” He explained. “I would have always felt regrets not being on the clay in 2019 because my knee problem is far enough away now.’
“It feels good to be back on the clay now and I enjoy it to be honest.”
Federer’s hiatus began in 2016 when injury forced him out of the French Open that year. 12 months later he opted to rest in order to aid his longevity on the tour. The world No.3 is currently the second oldest player in the top 100 after Ivo Karlovic. He also took a break in 2018 for the same reason.
“I didn’t really miss it because I was enjoying myself at home and having a good time and again, looking at the longevity.”
2. He wants to take on Nadal
Perhaps the best indication of how his current game is on the dirt is by taking on Rafael Nadal. The most successful clay-court player of all-time who has the nickname ‘king of clay.’ So far they have both locked horns 15 times of the surface with Federer only winning twice – Hamburg 2007 and Madrid 2009.
“I remember back to the (2009) final here in Madrid as one of my good matches on clay, no doubt about it. I think he (Nadal) was pretty tired as well. I played solid.” He reflected.
“Of course, I would love to play on clay against him again, even though I know it’s a tough challenge and all that.”
The first meeting between the two occurred when Nadal was 18 back in 2004. A year later was the first of their clashes on the clay, which the Spaniard won in four sets at Roland Garros.
“It would be nice to have played him at the beginning of his the career on clay and also at the very end and see how it all plays out.” He said.
“If I said I don’t want to play him on clay, I think then I would have made a mistake to be on the clay in the first place because he is the measuring stick for all us players.”
In Madrid this year, the two can only clash if they both progress to the final.
3. The French Open will be a whole new ball game
In the wake of his clinical performance against Gasquet, the chatter has begun over Federer’s French Open chances. The only grand slam he has failed to win multiple titles at. His sole triumph occurred a decade ago in 2009. He is also a four-time finalist at Roland Garros.
“I think Paris is going to be very different.” The former world No.1 previewed. “You’ll have to play differently, have a different approach, different mindset. But I think here in Madrid you can definitely come in with a hard court mindset, to some extent.”
Unlike other events during this time of the year, Madrid is unique due to its altitude. Meaning the ball travels faster than it would at other events on the clay. It is for this reason why Federer is under no illusion that he remains an outsider at the upcoming grand slam. Besides Nadal, rival Novak Djokovic is also bidding to win his fourth consecutive major trophy in a row.
“I haven’t been there in so long, but everything at sea-level plays differently. So that’s why I know Madrid is not Paris and then, of course, I don’t know how the conditions are going to be exactly, I haven’t played with the balls over there. There’s going to be a switch in ball manufacturers as well, so we have to see.”
Federer resumes his Madrid Open run on Thursday against either Gael Monfils or Marton Fucsovics.
Daniil Medvedev Ousts Former Quarter-Finalist Tiafoe, Kyrgios Reigns Supreme At Australian Open
Both players endured a testing start to their campaigns at Melbourne Park.
Two players tipped to fill in the void when the big three of men’s tennis departs from the sport have got off to a winning start at the Australian Open.
US Open runner-up Daniil Medvedev manoeuvred his way past a tricky encounter with Frances Tiafoe. Who reach the last eight of the tournament 12 months ago in what is his best grand slam performance to date. Despite the threat posed, Medvedev held his nerve to prevail 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, on the premier Rod Laver Arena. The night-time encounter saw the Russian fired 13 aces and 42 winners past Tiafoe en route to the second round.
“It was a really tough match. I think it was a bit up and down from both of us.” Medvedev said during his on-court interview.
“I’m really happy to win because the first round is never easy. Especially against Frances, who was in the quarters last year.”
Medvedev, who turns 24 next month, has been labelled as one of potential players who can end the reign of Roger Federer and Co by winning a grand slam title this season. Last year he claimed 59 wins on the ATP Tour, which was more than any other player. During his breakthrough season he clinched his first two Masters titles as well as a duo of ATP 250 events.
Despite his victory, the world No.4 was far from contempt when it came to his latest performance. Medvedev dropped serve at least once in every set played and also leaked 35 errors. The same amount of mistakes as Tiafoe.
“There were many moments during the match where I felt I was getting momentum and then he came back.” He reflected.
“I think I can do many things better, but for the first round it’s a big win and I’m really happy.’
“I didn’t like my serve today to be honest. But hopefully I can do better in the next round, otherwise I will be in trouble.”
Kyrgios Topples Italian rival
Taking to the court at the same time as Medvedev, Nick Kyrgios also experienced a tricky start to his title bid in Melbourne. Seeded 23rd in the draw this year, the home favourite roared his way to a 6-2, 7-6(3), 7-6(1), win over Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego. Claiming his fourth tour win of the season following his trio of singles victories at the ATP Cup earlier this month.
“I was just excited to get out here. It has been a pretty emotional couple of months for all of us,’ Kyrgios commented in reference to the ongoing bushfire crisis in Australia.
“I just wanted to come out here and put on a good performance.”
Kyrgios has been one of the driving forces behind Tennis Australia’s series of fundraisers to support the bushfire appeal. He has pledged to donate $200 for every ace he produces during the Australian Open. Working out at $2800 from his latest match along after firing 14 past Sonego. Overall, Kyrgios won an impressive 87% of his first service points during the 135-minute clash.
“I feel good. I’m not looking ahead in the draw at all.” Kyrgios stated.
“Everyone can play in the draw, they are all capable. So I’m just going to take it one match at a time.” He added.
During his on-court interview, John McEnroe make an unexpected announcement. The former world No.1 has said he will donate $1000 for every set Kyrgios wins in the remainder of the tournament to the bushfire appeal. Prompting a huge cheer from the crowd.
Both Medvedev and Kyrgios will play their second round matches on Thursday.
Ernests Gulbis upsets Felix Auger Aliassime to advance to the second round in Melbourne
World number 256 Ernests Gulbis upset Canadian Next Gen star Felix Auger Aliassime 7-5 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 to reach the second round at the Australian Open at Melbourne Park.
Auger Aliassime was the second Canadian Next Gen player to lose in the first round at this year’s edition of the Australian Open after his compatriot Denis Shapovalov was defeated by Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics on Monday.
Auger Aliassime started the 2020 season with just one win in four matches at the ATP Cup, but he reached the semifinal in Adelaide last week, losing to eventual champion Andrey Rublev in three sets.
Auger Aliassime earned the first game in the ninth game at 30 to take a 5-4 lead, but Gulbis broke twice in the 10th and 12th game to win the first set 7-5. In the second set Auger Aliassime saved three break points in both the eighth and tenth games and broke in the ninth game at deuce to seal the second set 6-4.
In the third set Auger Aliassime saved four break points to hold his serve at deuce in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Gulbis fended off a break point in the fifth and eleventh games before winning the tie-break 7-4.
Gulbis earned an early break in the first game of the opening set. Auger Aliassime broke back in the third game and held his serve at deuce to draw level to 2-2 after saving two break points. Gulbis broke for the second time in the fifth game and held his next service games to close out the fourth set 6-4.
“Every time you come to Australia the main goal is the Aussie Open, so it’s not good. That’s what the result show, but at the same time I am staying calm and positive because I feel I am not far from playing well and winning matches”,said Felix Auger Aliassime.
Dominic Thiem beats Adrian Mannarino to reach the second round in Melbourne for the fifth consecutive year
Fifth seed and last year’s Roland Garros finalist Dominic Thiem beat Adrian Mannarino 6-3 7-5 6-2 to extend his winning record in his head-to-head against the French player to 8-0. The Austrian player hit 36 winners to 34 unforced errors. Thiem set up a second round match against either Albert Ramos Vinolas or Australian wild card Alex Bolt.
Thiem earned the first break in the fourth game to open up a 3-1 lead. Mannarino fended off two break points in the eighth game while he was serving at 2-5, but Thiem sealed the first set 6-3 on his third set point after a 27-shot rally.
Thiem went up a set and a break in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead, but Mannarino pulled the break back to draw level to 4-4, as Thiem sent a forehand long. Thiem got his second break in the 11th game to take a 6-5 lead after a 28-shot rally and reeled off 12 of the last 14 points to clinch the second set 7-5.
Thiem started the third set with an early break and won 16 of the first 20 points to seal the win after 2 hours and 21 minutes. The 2019 ATP Finals runner-up reached the Australian Open second round for the fifth consecutive year.
Thiem leads 2-1 in his three head-to-head matches against Ramos Vinolas, but the Spaniard won their only clash on hard-court in Chengdu four years ago.
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