Federer to return to clay after two-year absence

MADRID • Roger Federer is set to play his first match on clay in almost two years at next month's Madrid Open, after he was confirmed for the Masters 1000 event on Tuesday.

The 39-year-old was listed among the players to have registered for the May 2-9 tournament in the Spanish capital, with world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and French Open champion Rafael Nadal also in the 56-man field.

While entry lists can be hit by withdrawals, this will mark the first time since last year's Australian Open that tennis' "Big Three" will be at the same event.

Federer recently returned to action at the Qatar Open in Doha after 13 months out following two knee surgeries last year.

He was beaten in his second match last month and promptly withdrew from Dubai, claiming he needed more time on the practice courts.

The Swiss has won just one of his 20 Majors on clay, taking the Roland Garros title in 2009. He has appeared at just one of the past five French Opens, reaching the semi-finals two years ago.

Federer has not won an ATP Tour clay title since Istanbul in 2015, while his most recent Masters triumph on the surface was Madrid in 2012.

The event, which was axed last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, runs alongside the women's competition, which begins on April 29.

World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, Australian and US Open champion Naomi Osaka, and Wimbledon champion Simona Halep have all been named to play.

However, 23-time Grand Slam singles champion Serena Williams will be a notable absentee owing to a row with tournament director Ion Tiriac.

In January, the Romanian billionaire called on the 39-year-old to "have a little decency and retire", adding: "At this age and the weight she is now, she does not move as easily as she did 15 years ago."

Alexis Ohanian, Williams' husband, then slammed the comments, labelling Tiriac "a racist, sexist clown".


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2021, with the headline 'Federer to return to clay after two-year absence'. Subscribe