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.
Andy Murray To Play Four Tournaments In A Row Following Shanghai Wild Card
It is going to be a busy few week’s for the British player as he continues his comeback to the tour.
The comeback of former world No.1 Andy Murray is gaining momentum after he received a wild card into the most high-profile men’s tournament in China.
The three-time Grand Slam champion has been given entry into the Shanghai Masters, which will get underway on October 5th. Murray is one of only three players to have won the title three or more times. His last triumph was back in 2016 when he defeated Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut in the final. That was also the last time the Brit played in the tournament after being hampered by a serious hip injury over the past two years.
“I’m really looking forward to going back to Shanghai, a tournament I have had success at in the past.” Murray said in a statement.
“Thanks to the tournament for a wild card, it’s great to be able to continue my comeback and play more tennis in China. Shanghai is a great city; I feel comfortable there and the fans are always supportive.”
Murray is continuing his return to the tour after undergoing hip resurfacing surgery earlier this season. The second operation he has had on his hip in as many years. So far in his singles comeback, the 32-year-old has lost his opening matches in Cincinnati (to Richard Gasquet) and Winston-Salem (to Tennys Sandgren). He is currently ranked 415th in the world.
“We are delighted to have Andy return to the tournament where he has been so successful,” Shanghai tournament director Michael Luevano said. “He is incredibly popular with our fans and we are all thrilled to see him back on the courts and heading to Shanghai.’
“He has been through a lot physically in recent times so to see him back doing what he loves is very rewarding for everyone in tennis.”
The addition of Shanghai to his schedule means Murray will play four tournaments in four weeks across two continents. He will also play at events in Zhuhai (ATP 250) and Beijing (ATP 500) prior to the Masters tournament. Then the week after, he will return to Europe to play at the European Open (ATP 250) in Antwerp, Belgium.
Murray is hoping to return back to his top form. So far in his career, he has won 45 titles on the ATP Tour and spent 41 consecutive weeks as world No.1.
Borna Coric Opens Up About Split With Coach
The Croatian No.1 has criticised his ex-mentor for working with Maria Sharapova earlier this year.
Borna Coric has said he had differences of opinion with his former coach ‘for some time’ before they decided to go their separate ways.
The world No.15 has shed light on the reasons behind his decision to part ways with Riccardo Piatti earlier this month. The two have worked together since 2017. Under Piatti’s guidance, Coric won the biggest title of his career in Halle last year. However, he hasn’t won any more silverware since then.
“There have been differences for some time, since the beginning of the year.” Coric said earlier this week.
“They reached the pinnacle at the US Open, after which we all sat around a table and decided to interrupt the collaboration.”
Piatti is a renowned coach in the world of men’s tennis and has worked with many top names. Including Novak Djokovic, Richard Gasquet and Milos Raonic. He also has his own academy in Italy, where he spent some time with Maria Sharapova during the summer and supported her during the US Open. Something that has been criticised by Coric.
“We can say that, it certainly did not help to resolve the differences and made the situation worse.” He commented on Piatti’s work with Sharapova.
“This was one of the main reasons. He is following several projects and could no longer focus fully on me. Given this and the previous divergences, we assessed that the separation was the best option.” Coric added.
The 22-year-old is hoping to end the year on a high after another injury setback. At the US Open he was forced to withdraw from the second round due to a back injury. His win-loss for the season currently stands at 23-15. Coric’s best runs so far in 2019 were at Doha and s-Hertogenbosch where he reached the semi-finals of both tournaments.
Coric is set to return to action next week in St. Petersburg, where he will be the fourth seed.
“Regardless of the situation, I have to try to make the most of this season . I am working hard in anticipation of the return to the field in St. Petersburg.” He concluded.
For the rest of the season Coric will be coached by Antonio Veic. Although there is a chance that more members will be added to his team in the near future.
Gerard Pique Sheds Light On Chances of Roger Federer Returning To Davis Cup
The Swiss maestro is the only member of the Big Three not to feature in the revamped event later this year.
There is a 50/50 chance that Roger Federer could play in next year’s Davis Cup finals, according to Kosmos founder Gerard Pique.
The Barcelona F.C. player has confirmed that talks are ongoing about the former world No.1 featuring in the historic event, which has been revamped this year. For the first time in it’s 119-year history, the finals will take place over a week and feature 18 teams taking part in a round-robin format. The change has split opinion in the sport, but was given the green light at the ITF’s annual AGM meeting last year. Pique’s investment company Kosmos is a key financial backer of the changes.
One notable absence from this year’s finals, which will be held in Madrid, is Federer. The former world No.1 has in the past been a critic of the new format. Once saying the tournament has been designed for ‘the future generation of players,’ but not him. He has also warned against the team competition being turned into the ‘Pique Cup.’ A term the Spaniard is not a fan of.
“I wanted since the first moment I arrived in the tennis world, is to try to help this sport.” Pique said during an interview with Sport Business.
“Switzerland has not qualified for November so even if Roger wants to play in this event, he cannot, but we are talking with him and his agent to discuss the possibility to play in 2020.”
As is currently stands, Federer is the only member of the big three not to be playing. Rafael Nadal has vowed to play if healthy and Novak Djokovic announced his attendance on the eve of the US Open. The Serbian had previously expressed his reservations over participating due to its close proximity to the ATP Cup, another team event that will kick-off in January.
“I just feel like the date of the Davis Cup is really bad, especially for the top players. Between the two, I will prioritize the World Team Cup because that’s a competition of ATP.” The world No.1 said last year.
So why has Djokovic decided to play in Madrid? When asked in Flushing Meadows he said he wanted to represent his country. However, Pique believes there is more to it than that. Saying that he had managed to persuade the Serbian following conversations between the two.
“I said to him, ‘I know you are an ATP player but at the same time you represent the federation of Serbia, which is part of the ITF which invests in young talent and the future of tennis. I think it makes total sense that you participate in both competitions because it is a message that at the end of the day that you want [for the ATP and ITF] to work together.”
One criticism of the event is the timing of the finals. They will take place between November 18-24, the week after the ATP Finals in London. Partly eating into what is already a relatively short off-season for many players on the tour.
ITF President David Haggerty is hoping that negotiations over a potential change in dates can be made in the future with the new leader of the ATP. Current CEO Chris Kermode will be leaving his position later this year after failing to receive enough backing in a ATP board meeting.
“There is leadership change coming and once that’s completed we will continue discussions to see what’s the best date.” Haggerty outlined.
“We need to have the first Davis Cup finals in November and the ATP Cup will be in January and then we will have more facts and have a good discussion.”
The inaugural Davis Cup finals will be held at the Caja Magica. The same venue as the Madrid Open, which takes place annually in May.
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