- Roger Federer plays a tour-level singles match on clay for the first time in three years next week, and he appears to be nervous about it.
- The 20-time Grand Slam tennis champion said he’s “not confident” about returning to a clay court because he’s “forgotten how to slide.”
- Federer heads into the Madrid Open, a tournament he has won twice before while it has been contested on clay, in good form having lost just twice in 2019 so far.
- Qualifiers for the Madrid Open are already underway but Federer will not play until the second round of the tournament proper.
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Roger Federer plays clay court tennis for the first time in three years next week but has said he’s “not confident” about returning to the soft surface because he’s “forgotten how to slide.”
In recent years, Federer has been an active participant in the hard court, grass, and indoor tennis season, carefully choosing his events to maximize his fitness levels and preparation for marquee events like the Wimbledon Championships.
The 20-time Grand Slam tennis champion has not competed a tour-level match on clay since 2016, when he took part in the Monte-Carlo Masters, the Madrid Open, and the Italian Open.
He was knocked out of the Monte-Carlo quarter-final by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, withdrew in Spain because of a back injury, then lost to Dominic Thiem in the third round in Rome.
But now Federer is just days away from playing on clay one more time when he competes in the 2019 Madrid Open, vying for the title alongside long-time rivals Novak Djokovic and five-time winner Rafa Nadal — and Federer appears nervous.
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According to news agency Agence France-Presse, Federer said: “I’m very excited. It’s a good challenge, a good test. Confidence, I don’t know, it’s in no-man’s land. I have to start from scratch.”
Federer has won three titles at the Madrid Open, two of which were won when the tournament changed from a hard to a clay court 10 years ago. In 2009 he beat Nadal 6-4, 6-4, before besting Tomas Berdych 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 in 2012.
He is no stranger to success at La Caja Magica, but fears how he will fare this season.
“I’m not very confident going into this clay court season, I can tell you that,” he said. “I don’t even remember how to slide anymore.”
He added: “You know, I’m taking baby steps at this point. To be honest, I didn’t play one point, not one shot on clay last year. 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.”
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Federer has enjoyed an impressive calendar year to date, winning 18 matches (90%) against two losses in 2019 and picking up the Dubai Tennis Championships in March just weeks before winning the Miami Open, too.
Qualifiers for the Madrid Open are currently ongoing but Federer will not play until the second round of the tournament proper next week, as he received a bye because of his top eight seeding.
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