Federer sets his sights on French Open

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates (left) and Roger Federer reacting after a point during their Match for Africa 4 charity game on Saturday against Pearl Jam lead guitarist Mike McCready and John Isner.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates (left) and Roger Federer reacting after a point during their Match for Africa 4 charity game on Saturday against Pearl Jam lead guitarist Mike McCready and John Isner.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Resurgent Swiss maestro to play in Paris but insists 'king of clay' Nadal is still the favourite

SEATTLE • Roger Federer has made a massive call: He will be playing at the French Open, which starts on May 28.

The veteran, after defeating John Isner 6-4, 7-6 (9-7) in an exhibition match in Seattle on Sunday to benefit his charity foundation, told the Tennis Channel that he plans to play at Roland Garros for the first time since 2015.

"I am registered and my intention is to play Roland Garros," the 18-time Grand Slam champion said in a post-match interview.

The 35-year-old Swiss, ranked fourth in the world, made a quarter-final exit at the 2015 French Open and missed last year's event while dealing with knee and back injuries.

His lone title on the red clay in Paris came in 2009 and completed a career Grand Slam.

He owns five US and Australian Open crowns and seven Wimbledon titles.

THE ONE THAT MATTERS

The question was: Will I play one Masters before French Open or not? Skipping it and playing only the French is the right thing to do as a dad, husband, tennis player, for my foundation, training.''

ROGER FEDERER, world No. 4, reiterating his focus and desire to play in the French Open this month.

"I feel very privileged to be back on a tennis court," said Federer, who is coming off victories at the Australian Open and ATP events in Miami and Indian Wells.

"Last year was extremely difficult, having had surgery and the knee never healing.

"Then I had back pain too, and it all got too much at Wimbledon and I was out for six months.

"But I was able to spend some incredible time with the family and start preparing for this season and hoping that the work that I put in (during) the off-season was going to really pay off.

"I was going to get a second chance to really play tennis again on the professional tour and so when I did come back in Australia, it was really exciting."

World No. 7 Rafael Nadal, 30, is the overwhelming favourite for a 10th title in Paris, but Federer could be his closest challenger as Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic continue to struggle.

"Rafa is the favourite. I think he's so good on clay, he showed it again with a 10th Monte Carlo title (last fortnight)," said Federer. "I think with Novak winning there last year, they are going to be the one-two favourites."

He added: "When I had success in Australia I knew I could not do everything this year. Also, last year the clay-court season was difficult for me. So, the question was: Will I play one Masters before French Open or not? Skipping it and playing only the French is the right thing to do as a dad, husband, tennis player, for my foundation, training."

Nadal hailed a "dream start" to his clay-court season after romping to his 10th Barcelona Open title on Sunday after sweeping aside Austria's Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-1.

"It is two consecutive weeks winning, in Monte Carlo and here, two special tournaments for me, it is a dream start on clay," said Nadal after his Barcelona triumph.

"It means a lot for me to reach No. 10 here in Barcelona (winning on a court named after him), in front of the people of my club, I am very happy and emotional."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2017, with the headline 'Federer sets his sights on French Open'. Print Edition | Subscribe