Three Things We Learned Following Roger Federer’s Return To Clay - UBITENNIS
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Three Things We Learned Following Roger Federer’s Return To Clay

It was a good day at the office for the 20-time grand slam champion, but how much should be read into his latest win?

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Roger Federer (photo by Roberto Dell Olivo)

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.

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Novak Djokovic battles past Diego Schwartzman to set up a blockbuster final against Rafael Nadal in Rome

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Novak Djokovic battled past Diego Schwartzman 6-3 6-7 (2-7) 6-3 in the semifinal of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia setting up a blockbuster final against Rafael Nadal.

 

In their previous head-to-head match Djokovic recovered from 2 sets to one down to win in five sets at 2017 Roland Garros.

Both players played a good match, but Djokovic raised his level in the most decisive moments of the match. Djokovic was not affected by his 3-hour marathon match against Juan Martin Del Potro, where he saved two match points.

Djokovic won another thrilling match after 2 hours and 31 minutes against Schwartzman reaching his 9th final in Rome and his 49th title match at Masters 1000 level.

Djokovic converted four of his five break points and dropped his serve twice.

Djokovic got his first break in the eighth game, when Schwartzman netted a backhand. Djokovic held his serve with three winners in the ninth game to close out the opening set 6-3 after 38 minutes.

Djokovic and Schwartzman traded four consecutive breaks from 3-2 in the second set. Schwartzman went up a break twice at 4-2 and 5-3, but Djokovic broke back both times in the seventh and ninth games to draw level to 5-5 setting up a tie-break. Schwartzman took two mini-breaks and won all points on serve to win the tie-break 7-2 forcing the match to the third set.

In the third set they traded five service games before Djokovic earned the decisive break in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead, when Schwartzman made a backhand error. The Serbian player held serve in the ninth game to secure his spot in the final.

Djokovic and Nadal will meet for the 54th time. The Serbian player leads 28-25 in his head-to-head matches against the Spaniard. Both players hold the record of 33 Masters 1000 titles.

“He keeps on showing to the world why Nadal is one of the biggest legends of tennis history. I have the greatest respect for him. He is my greatest of all time. Every time we get to play each other, it’s a thrill. It’s the ultimate challenge”, said Djokovic.  

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Novak Djokovic Keeps Faith Ahead Of Schwartzman Semi-Final In Rome

Novak Djokovic is keeping the faith as he looks forward to a semi-final match with Diego Schwartzman in Rome.

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Novak Djokovic (@ATP_Tour - Twitter)

World number one Novak Djokovic is keeping the faith ahead of his Rome semi-final against Diego Schwartzman. 

 

The four-time champion survived a massive test late last night as he battled past Juan Martin Del Potro 4-6 7-6(6) 6-4 in just over three hours.

After saving two match points the Serb proved to be too clinical as he clinched victory at about 1am in the morning on Saturday.

In a short interview after his match Djokovic said that keeping faith was important in his quarter-final victory, I never lost faith I could come back to the match,” Djokovic explained.

“One break of serve, mini break in the tiebreak when he was 6-4, more or less open forehand that he was making the entire match, that’s all it took for me to come back. I’m just really pleased to overcome.”

In addition to keeping mentally strong, Djokovic also praised Del Potro’s performance as he continues his recovery from a knee injury, “He was playing really good. I tried my best obviously all the way till the end,” Djokovic said.

I lost probably the positioning of the court over him. Towards the end of the first he just started hitting the ball really well from both corners. Also backhand side, backhand down the line. He was playing really well. Gave me a lot of trouble.”

Next up for Djokovic is Diego Schwartzman who is into his first ever masters 1000 semi-final and is yet to drop a set this week.

The Serb leads the head-to-head 2-0 although their last match went to five sets at Roland Garros a couple of years ago. It should be a fascinating match which takes place at 8pm local time as Djokovic looks to keep the faith heading into the French Open.

 

 

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Novak Djokovic fends off two match points to win a dramatic quarter final match against Juan Martin Del Potro in Rome

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Four-time Rome champion Novak Djokovic fended off two match pointsto knok out Juan Martin Del Potro 4-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 after 3 hours and 2 minutes in one of the most exciting matches of this edition of the Intenazionali d’Italia in Rome.

 

Djokovic won just five points than Del Potro and hit 43 winners to 34 unforced errors.

Del Potro saved six break points in the fourth, sixth and eighth games of the opening set and got his break in the seventh game to take a 4-3 lead.

The Argentine saved three break points in the tenth game to close out the first set with a backhand down the line winner.

Del Potro hit an ace to save a break point in the second game of the second set. Djokovic broke serve in the sixth game with a backhand winner.

The world number 1 fended off a set point on the return in the eighth game. Del Potro broke back at 15 in the ninth game after a loose backhand from Djokovic, when he was serving out the set at 5-3.

Del Potro earned two match points at 6-4 in the tie-break. Djokovic reeled off four consecutive points to win the tie-break 8-6, when Del Potro sent a backhand long forcing the match to the third set.

Djokovic fended off three break points in the fourth game of the decider before breaking serve in the fifth game, as Del Potro netted a forehand. The Serb served well in the next games and closed out the match with a hold of serve setting up a semifinal clash against Diego Schwartzman.

“I have never lost faith I could come back to the match. One break of serve, mini-break of the tie-break when he was 6-4 in the tie-break, more or less open forehand that he was making the entire match, that’s all it took for me to come back. He missed a crucial point in the tie-break. Also in the break point of the third set, quite easy forehand. That’s what happens. That’s sport. I am just really pleased to overcome. I am happy that Del Potro is back to his best form after the injury”, said Djokovic.

 

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