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Federer: "I enjoyed clay court season and Roland Garros"

“I think I surprised myself maybe with how deep I got in this tournament and how well I actually was able to play throughout. I definitely enjoyed the clay-court season and Roland Garros.”

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Federer wins fourth Miami Open title

Roger Federer produced a championship masterclass under the Florida sun, dominating reigning champ John Isner 6-1, 6-4 to win his fourth Miami title.

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Federer makes history in Dubai, wins 100th title

Roger Federer made history at the Dubai Duty Free Championships, defeating reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 6-4 to win his 100th tour-level title.

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Federer in fine form as Switzerland win Hopman Cup

Roger Federer became the most successful player in Hopman Cup history when he led Switzerland to a 2-1 win in an enthralling final of the mixed teams tournament in Perth.

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Federer becomes oldest ATP World No.1

Roger Federer guaranteed his return to No.1 in the ATP Rankings after beating Robin Haase 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 to reach the semi-finals of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam.

Federer off to winning start in Halle

Roger Federer began his bid for a record-extending 10th Halle Open title with a 7-6 (1), 6-3 win over Australia's John Millman on Tuesday, with defending champion Borna Coric also advancing.

Federer, who lost to Coric in last year's final, hit nine aces and saved the only break point he faced to beat Millman in 1 hour, 17 minutes.

“I always think any way you get through is a good way because the next match will always feel different. I think with John having beaten me at the US Open, I knew it was going be tough. So thankfully I wasn’t too nervous. I think I had a clear game plan. I knew that it was going to be more difficult for him to dominate the baseline. Conditions are faster here so I’m able to control the tempo of the match a little bit more.

“It is always important to win your first match on grass, because otherwise the grass season can be very short,” Federer said.

Federer next faces Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who defeated French compatriot Benoit Paire 6-4, 7-5 at the grass-court tournament. He leads his rivalry with Tsonga 11-6, but the Frenchman has won their past two matchups - at 2016 Monte Carlo and 2014 Canada. The two have played on grass only once, a five-set win for Tsonga in the 2011 Wimbledon quarter-finals.

Federer already has the best grass-court record in the Open era with 18 titles, and the 37-year-old can set a personal record with his 10th at a single event in Halle.

Date: 18 June 2019, Source: AP and ATP

Federer: "I'm fresh, rested and ready for grass court season"

Despite topping the list for most trophies on the surface, 18-time grass titlist Roger Federer admitted the short nature of the grass-court season provides a unique challenge ahead of the Noventi Open in Halle.

"The pressure is high for me too. The grass-court season is extremely short," said Federer. "There is not that much I can do to get into it as well, other than have that point-for-point mentality. My focus needs to be crystal clear and that is what I need to have from the get-go here as I play John Millman in the first round, who has been a tough one for me in the past."

Fresh from his semi-final run at Roland Garros, the World No. 3 will face extra pressure in his opening match on the surface this year against Millman, as the Aussie stunned Federer in four sets in the fourth round of last year’s US Open.

However, Federer is a nine-time champion in Halle. Also a nine-time Swiss Indoors Basel titlist, Federer has reached the quarter-finals or better in each of his previous 16 appearances in Halle and will be keen to go one step further than his runner-up finish to Borna Coric last year. Federer owns a 9-3 record in Halle championship matches and a 63-7 tournament record.

"I think I look back down memory lane a little bit here," said Federer. "I see how many good moments I've had here, I see how much success I've had. The fan interaction is special. I feel like we know eachother, they know what they get from me and I know what to expect from them. It makes me feel really good and makes me play good tennis."

Federer arrives in Halle after competing on clay for the first time since 2016. The 101-time tour-level titlist reached quarter-finals at ATP Masters 1000 events in Rome and Madrid, before a semi-final run at Roland Garros.

"I feel great, to be honest. I am happy to be on the grass, regardless of if I played good or bad on the clay, or if I didn't play at all," said Federer. "I always feel happy coming to this surface and this part of the season. I have always loved playing here in Halle for so many years. This is my 17th time playing this event."

Due to his participation on the European clay, Federer's grass-court preparations have been abbreviated in comparison to 2017 and 2018. In the past two years, the Swiss returned to action a week earlier at the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart following a three-month break after the Miami Open.

"Compared to the past few years, I have had much less time to prepare for the grass-court season," said Federer. "Not having played on clay in 2017 and 2018, I had plenty of time. So, I don't want to say I feel stressed, but the transition was definitely faster than in the past few years."

But Federer's efforts on the red dirt have given the World No. 3 plenty of reasons for positivity. The nine-time Halle champion notched nine wins from 11 tour-level encounters on the surface, with his only losses coming against Dominic Thiem in Madrid and Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros.

"I was really positive about my clay-court swing. I lost against the best clay-court player ever, so there is no shame there," said Federer. "I tried everything I had and we played in unbelievably windy conditions. It was really challenging. I loved it actually, to play Rafa in that situation, the way it was. But I left Paris very positively."

With a new surface, there is a new challenge. But there aren't many challenges more familiar to Federer than playing on grass. The 20-time Grand Slam champion, who owns an 87.1 per cent win percentage on the surface (176-26), shared his thoughts on how grass elevates his game to new heights.

"Grass highlights my strength and it maybe hides my weaknesses. From that standpoint, I can play how I want, on my terms, how I would like. When you feel that way, it is maybe what Rafa feels on the clay. I have all the options and when you have options, it gives you options to win and different tactics you can use against different players. That gives you maybe that little bit more margin you need to stay out of trouble and win matches.

"I feel fresh, rested and ready for the grass season now," said Federer, who will target a ninth Wimbledon win in July.

"The surface suits me. I like the intuitive, aggressive game. Matches on grass are often decided in a few rallies. You have to stay awake and concentrated. Winning the tournament always has to be my goal in Halle."

Date: 16 June 2019, Source: ATP

Nadal: "Federer is the best player in history"

Rafael Nadal hailed Roger Federer as "the best player in history" after blowing his old rival away in the Paris wind to reach a 12th French Open final. Federer felt the full force of the 11-time Roland Garros champion with the storm fast approaching on Friday.

Defending champion Nadal won 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 with winds of up to 130 kilometres per hour gusting on Court Philippe Chatrier. The wind barely dropped all match with both players buffeted throughout, and rubbing grit from their eyes from time to time.

Nadal had not beaten the 20-time Grand Slam winner in their last five matches, a run stretching back five years and, despite taking just two hours and 25 minutes to down the Swiss great, the second seed said it was by no means straightforward.

"It was a pleasure to play Roger. It was a high level all three sets, which was remarkable in this wind. It's incredible, congratulations to Roger. He is incredible to play at this level aged 37," Nadal said in his on-court interview after ending Federer's first French Open appearance for four years.

"He is the best player in history and it's been a great pleasure to play against Roger. Him and me know each other. We played many times against each other. But these are matches where we can always find this small plus, this additional shot.

"And when I play against Roger, I always expect the best from him."

Date: 8 June 2019, Source: Omnisport and Reuters

Federer: "I enjoyed clay court season and Roland Garros"

Roger Federer has played 1,472 ATP Tour matches and faced hundreds of opponents throughout his 21-year career. But after his 3-6, 4-6, 2-6 Roland Garros semi-final loss to Rafael Nadal, his sixth to the Spaniard at this event, he admitted his clay-court battles against the 11-time champion are unmatched in difficulty.

“He makes you feel uncomfortable the way he defends the court and plays on clay. There is nobody who even plays remotely close to him,” said Federer. “I don't even know who I need to go search for to go practice with somebody who plays like him. It's just amazing how he plays from deep and then is able to bounce back and forth from the baseline.”

The Swiss star powered into the semi-finals for the first time since 2012. Competing with a larger racquet head for the first time at the second major of the year, Federer’s backhand had more bite than in previous visits and allowed for even greater success in rushing the net. He won 127 of 175 net points (72.6%) in his first five rounds and went to the net 60 times in his quarter-final victory over Stan Wawrinka.

But Federer’s trips to the net on Friday had two things working against him. Not only does Nadal love a target, but brutal winds topping 39 miles per hour slowed his approaches and enabled the Spaniard to comfortably rip passing shots. Federer won just 17 of 35 net points (48%) on the day.

“I think the first set was mostly about getting used to conditions,” said Federer. “It was incredibly windy. Especially for a big match like this for both of us, it's just really complicated. So you're trying to see how much can you do or can you not do? Are you playing flatter or with more spin? Are you keeping the ball in play? Are you going for stuff? I think that was basically the story of the first set, more or less.

“Second set, I think there is definitely a big regret to get broken at 2-0 with the wind on my back,” said Federer. “If I can avoid that one, maybe the second set turns out to be different. But I think holding serve against the wind with Rafa's quality on the return is just really hard. He barely misses any.

“And then when he's in the rally, he plays with great spin on the forehand, great sort of control on the backhand side. So it's just really hard to find holes, especially in the wind, if you're trying to hit through the ball, which is really difficult, actually. But it was windy for both. He was better, no doubt about it. But I had maybe mini chances today, but they were not big enough to win today.

“You get to a point where you're just happy to make shots and not look ridiculous. It's that bad,” said Federer of the swirling winds. “There is also no way to practice in these conditions. It's all a mindset. It's footwork. It was difficult, but I accept that. He played in an incredible way. He has incredible abilities on clay. I knew that ahead of time.”

Despite the loss, Federer can consider his clay-court season a success. Before the start of the clay season, the Swiss admitted being unsure if he remembered how to slide on the surface after not competing on it for three years. He finished it with a 9-2 record, only losing to Nadal and Dominic Thiem. Federer also got 1,080 ATP Rankings points during this stretch, cementing his position at No. 3 and moving him closer to catching Nadal at No. 2.

The always vocal Parisian fans showed their appreciation at having the chance to watch Federer for the first time since 2015, showering him with even more adoration than he typically received over the years on Court Philippe Chatrier. The love from the crowd made the 20-time Grand Slam champion hint that his return to clay will become a staple in his final years on tour.

“I thought it was a great tournament. I really enjoyed it. Crowd support couldn't have been better. Maybe one of the best ever in my entire 20-year career that I have been on tour at a Grand Slam,” said Federer. “They were always there for me, supporting me in practice, at the matches, on the grounds whenever I came and showed up. They were always happy to see me. So that was nice.

“I think I surprised myself maybe with how deep I got in this tournament and how well I actually was able to play throughout. Next year, just like with any other tournament, I don't know. We'll see what happens. But I definitely enjoyed the clay-court season and Roland Garros, so that would help the chances to return to the clay. It's not like it's been a shocker. So from that standpoint, it's okay.”

Date: 7 June 2019, Source: ATP

Federer says the road to clay glory goes through Nadal

If you're left-handed, currently in Paris and can break a nasty serve wide to the ad court, you might just be who Roger Federer is looking for.

Deep into the second week of Roland Garros, options for lefty practice partners are somewhat limited. But Federer is in need of lefty practice partners during the next two days as he prepares for his blockbuster Friday semi-final against arch rival Rafael Nadal.

Looking forward to their 39th ATP Head to Head meeting, Federer said that playing Nadal at Roland Garros was a massive challenge despite his own excellent form that he will take into the match.

“With Rafa, particularly on clay, you have to be aware of his strengths, what he brings to the table. And on top of it, because he's a left-hander, it just changes everything,” Federer said.

“I have two days, which I guess is a good thing. It's better than one. It's better than none. So from that standpoint, I get more left-handed practice, more serves and all that stuff.

“Because I guess I have played five guys now that are righties, so for me it's a complete switch-around. Just the way the ball goes out of your strings with the different spins, it's just different. So you have to get used to that quickly. Don't have much time to waste.

“That's why you have to be fearless to some extent to take on the spinny balls, the sliding balls, the kicking balls, and that's what I will do on Friday.”

Nadal and Federer have met just once on clay in the past eight years: in 2013 in Rome. And they have not met on clay since Federer switched to a larger racquet head, which offers more protection against Nadal’s signature crosscourt forehand, which historically has haunted Federer on the dirt.

Although Federer is a modest 2-13 against Nadal on clay - including 0-5 at Roland Garros - the Swiss said that he believes he has a chance to advance to the final. On the upside, the Swiss is on a five-match winning streak against Nadal, the longest run in his favour in their rivalry, which Nadal leads 23-15.

“Like against any player, there is always a chance. Otherwise nobody will be in the stadium to watch because everybody already knows the result in advance,” Federer said. “And I think sport does that to you, that every match needs to be played before it's decided.

“And that's exactly what everybody believes by facing Rafa. They know it's going to be tough. But you just never know. He might have a problem. He might be sick. You never know. You might be playing great or for some reason he's struggling. Maybe there's incredible wind, rain, 10 rain delays. You just don't know. That's why you need to put yourself in that position.

“For me to get to Rafa is not simple. It took five matches here for me to win to get there. That's why I'm very happy to play Rafa, because if you want to do or achieve something on the clay, inevitably, at some stage, you will go through Rafa, because he's that strong and he will be there.

“I knew that when I signed up for the clay that hopefully that's gonna happen. If I would have had a different mindset to avoid him, then I should not have played the clay. So I think by that mindset, I think it helped me to play so well so far this tournament.”

Date: 5 June 2019, Source: ATP

Federer beats Wawrinka, plays Nadal in Roland Garros semifinal

Roger Federer is competing at Roland Garros for the first time in four years, but it certainly hasn’t seemed like it this fortnight.

After a rain delay that lasted more than an hour, Federer surged past fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 in three hours and 35 minutes Tuesday, advancing to the semi-finals on the Parisian terre for the first time since 2012.

"I'm very happy, number one, to be back in another semi-finals of a Grand Slam. It hasn't happened in the past year or so. I had some tough losses in fourth rounds or quarters. So from that standpoint, I exceeded my expectations here," Federer said. "After missing the French for so many years, it's nice to be back in the semis, so that's a great feeling."

Federer seized early control against former World No. 3 Wawrinka, but the mishits and missed opportunities began to pile up for the 2009 titlist, as he suddenly was two Wawrinka holds away from going down two sets to one. But Federer remained calm and regained the momentum during the roller-coaster match by winning a crucial third-set tie-break, only for the adrenaline to wear off as threatening clouds sent the compatriots off the court.

Instead of faltering, though, Federer earned his second break of the match when they returned to court and after saving a break chance, punched a forehand volley into the open court to become the second-oldest man to make the semi-finals at Roland Garros, trailing only Pancho Gonzales, who was 40 in 1968.

Federer will next meet his greatest rival, 11-time champion Rafael Nadal, for the first time since 2017 Shanghai. They were set to battle in the semi-finals of this year’s BNP Paribas Open, but Nadal withdrew due to an injury. Their 39th ATP Head to Head clash (Nadal leads 23-15) will be their first on clay since 2013 Rome.

"Now I have the match with Rafa, and I'm clearly excited," Federer said. "I hope I can recover well in the next couple days, which I'm sure I will, and I'll give it my best shot on Friday."

Perhaps it’s fitting that Federer’s quarter-final victory came against Wawrinka, who ousted him in the last eight four years ago in straight sets. Federer now leads his good friend 23-3 in their ATP Head to Head, but entering the match the 37-year-old only had a 4-3 advantage on clay.

The third seed struggled converting break points, winning just 2 of 18 in the match, as Wawrinka consistently was aggressive to take matters into his own hands. But Federer held his nerve in the tie-breaks, dropping only two combined service points in both of them.

At the start of the match, Federer was cruising along on serve, using variety on the backhand side - going big, finding the short crosscourt angle, and varying the rhythm of rallies with a short chip - to play on his terms. But the 101-time tour-level titlist missed out on his first eight chances of the match as Wawrinka showed no fear in going for it under pressure.

Those missed chances nearly came back to haunt Federer, as Wawrinka, the three-time Grand Slam champion, converted his first two break points, using the first to win the second set and the next one to take a 4-3 lead in the third set. Suddenly, Federer began to mishit shots as he fell further behind the baseline, and Wawrinka added even more juice to his powerful strokes to overwhelm his compatriot in rallies and put more pressure on the World No. 3 to go for more from tougher positions.

But Wawrinka, who needed five hours and nine minutes to win his fourth-round match against reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas, finally cracked at 4-3 in the third. In the seventh different game in which he faced a break point, the No. 24 seed decelerated on a low forehand approach shot near the service line, and the ball sailed well long to allow Federer back on serve.

And from there, Federer began to find his service rhythm and work his way back into rallies again, throwing in more drop shots and using a timely stretch backhand drop volley in the ensuing tie-break to take the lead before closing out the third set.

When the Swiss stars returned to Court Suzanne Lenglen at 3-3 in the fourth set, Federer made clear his intentions to run around his backhand to hit forehands on second-serve returns, after missing many backhand returns long earlier on. And that strategy paid dividends, as he broke for 5-4, before saving a break point with a reflexed drop volley and serving out his victory. Federer is the oldest major semi-finalist since 39-year-old Jimmy Connors at the 1991 US Open.

"It wasn't super explosive on clay, especially if he plays from far behind, and I also decided to play from far back. So we found a rhythm, which maybe okay for both of us. I don't know if it would have been better for me to play more to the front and take the ball sooner," Federer said. "But it worked, and I'm happy about that. But I'm not surprised he reached that level, because we know how strong he is both mentally and physically."

Wawrinka, who earned his 500th tour-level win with his third-round triumph against Grigor Dimitrov, was pursuing his fourth Roland Garros semi-final. The 34-year-old underwent two knee surgeries in August 2017, and he has been battling his way back into form ever since, falling as low as No. 263 in the ATP Rankings last June. Wawrinka will return to the Top 20 next Monday.

"Only a few points could have changed a little bit the match, but I think I was playing well in those moments. He was a bit more aggressive," Wawrinka said. "This court was quite fast and slippery. It was important to be aggressive, to be inside the court, and he did that better than me.

"He was playing the way I expect him to play against me and on clay court," Wawrinka added. "There is no surprise anymore in what we are doing. It's just about who's going to play the best in those important points, and he did that better than me today."

Date: 4 June 2019, Source: ATP

Federer into second week at Roland Garros

Roger Federer booked his place in the fourth round at Roland Garros for a 14th time on Friday afternoon, weathering a resurgence from Casper Ruud in the third set, which saw the Norwegian right-hander hold one set point at 7/6 in the tie-break. The 2009 champion eventually won 6-3, 6-1, 7-6 (8) to surpass Budge Patty's 13 Round of 16 showings from 1946 to 1958.

I liked how he figured things out after going on a tough run there of nine games. The third set could have gone either way. He had chances early, then later, and then again after,” Federer said. “It was nice to see him hang in there. I thought the first set also was tough. I can see why he's going to be good in the future. He's got a great attitude, very calm, very quiet.”

Federer, returning to Roland Garros for the first time since 2015, outhit and outthought the 20-year-old Norwegian in the intergenerational battle, serving and volleying on second serves with success and avoiding lengthy rallies.

Nearly 120 points were decided between zero and three shots, while only 17 points endured for nine shots or more.

I enjoyed the match. I thought it was tough, even though I had a good run there for a while. And that also is very important for me to know, that I can run through a set and a half and just take care of business and gives me confidence for the next match,” Federer said. “The first goal has been reached by getting this deep into the tournament, and knowing where the game's at, knowing where the fitness is, the mind.”

He will next face Argentine Leonardo Mayer, who beat French wild card Nicolas Mahut 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4, 7-6 (3) to make his first Round of 16 at Roland Garros during his 10th main-draw showing here. Mayer also made the fourth round at the 2014 Wimbledon (l. to Dimitrov).

Federer said before his third-round match that he probably knew more about Casper's father and coach, Christian Ruud, who joined Federer in three Roland Garros draws from 1999-2001, than he did about Casper.

The 20-year-old was playing in his first Grand Slam third round and made his best ATP Masters 1000 showing earlier this month by making the Round of 16 in Rome. He hung with Federer to start, but the Swiss broke twice in each of the first two sets to take the lead.

Ruud rallied in the third, breaking early, and although he was unable to consolidate, he stepped into the court to force a tie-break, where Federer clinched his fourth match point.

“I feel that my 20 years on the tour went too fast almost,” Federer reflected. “When you play against people like Casper Ruud, you ask, ‘how was it at the time?’ When I started on the tour he was hardly born.”

And today Federer became the first player to play 400 Grand Slam matches.

It's true I played many matches in Grand Slam tournaments, and it's even more pleasant to do this in Roland Garros, because I have a lot of records, milestones from Wimbledon or the US Open. But doing anything in Roland is very special, because I played a lot here. It was my first Grand Slam where I was in the main draw, Federer said.

Date: 31 May 2019, Source: ATP and Roland Garros

Federer returns to Roland Garros in style

Roger Federer, the 2009 champion returned to Roland Garros on Sunday with a straightforward 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 win against Italian Lorenzo Sonego, four years after hitting his last ball on the Parisian clay. The Swiss broke five times and hit 36 winners to get off the court in less than two hours.

“There has been some pressure in the beginning, obviously some nerves, many people wanted to know how it was going to be for me, how I was going to be back.

“There has been a lot of attention lately with my return. When I started the match, I started it well, so it shows that the pressure is not acting on me,” Federer said.

“I was right away playing well on the centre court here in Roland Garros. The duration of the match wasn't a problem. No problems with my body before or after the match. And then I have two-and-a-half days. It's ideal for me for the start of the tournament.”

Federer missed 2016 Roland Garros because of injury and chose to skip the 2017 and 2018 clay-court swings to prepare for the grass-court season.

But he's returned to the European swing with success this year, making the quarter-finals in both Madrid and Rome, although he pulled out of the ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Rome because of a leg injury, a decision Federer later described as “precautionary”.

“Now I'm very happy I took that decision, because I enjoyed Madrid, I enjoyed Rome. I'm happy to be here. The reception I got today was crazy, was really nice to see a full stadium for a first round like this. It was a beauty. So I'm very, very happy,” Federer said.

The Swiss won his only Roland Garros title 10 years ago, beating Swede Robin Soderling in the final to complete the Career Grand Slam. He made the quarter-finals in 2015, falling to countryman Stan Wawrinka. Federer will next meet German lucky loser Oscar Otte, who beat Tunisian Malek Jaziri 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.

Federer is 23-3 win-loss this season and has picked up two titles, in Dubai and Miami, from three finals reached, yet he feels he comes to Roland-Garros as an "outsider" with the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem considered the top three favourites for the title.

For a 20-time Grand Slam champion, not being the top contender sounds ridiculous, but he's relishing the moment either way.

“It's nice to be an outsider. That's how I feel, anyhow. Just see how it goes. I know when Wimbledon comes around, sure, I'll be probably a higher favourite,” said Federer, who has a record eight Wimbledon crowns.

“That's okay, too. I'm happy that I'm there where I am. For many years it was either, if I don't win, it's a disappointment, and you explain yourself in the press room. People, like, don't understand why you lost. And so I feel like if I lost first round or in the finals or wherever it is, people would be, like, 'Okay, that could have happened'.

“I like that approach for me also once in a while. It relaxes you on the bigger points maybe or it relaxes you subconsciously as you walk through the grounds and go to practice and go to the press room. This is not a show I'm putting on. This is the truth. I really don't know how far I can go in this event, and I am very happy with my first round. It was a really good performance, I thought, from my side for not having played here for as long as I did.”

Date: 26 May 2019, Source: ATP and Roland Garros

Federer relishes French Open return after 3-year absence

Ten years on from his 2009 triumph in Paris, third seed Roger Federer is tempering expectations that he could produce a fairytale run to a 21st Grand Slam title in Roland Garros.

“I’m not sure if it’s in my racquet,” the 37-year-old said when asked if he could go all the way. “But I hope I can get myself in that position deep down in the tournament against the top guys. But first I need to get there and I know that's a challenge in itself.

It's definitely going to be an exciting tournament mentally to go through.

Federer, who treated himself to a day off from practice Friday, plays Italian World No. 73 Lorenzo Sonego in the first round. Seeded to meet Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals, if Federer goes on a run in Paris he could confront 29th seed Matteo Berrettini in the third round, Marco Cecchinato or Diego Schwartzman in the fourth round and Stefanos Tsitsipas, Marin Cilic or Stan Wawrinka in the quarters.

Federer last played Roland Garros in 2015. After skipping the entire European clay swing the past two years, Federer this year reached the quarter-finals in Madrid (where he held two match points against Dominic Thiem before losing) and in Rome (where he withdrew after playing back-to-back matches the previous day). After getting his clay legs, the five-time ATP year-end No. 1 says that he feels ready for his 18th Roland Garros campaign.

“I think I have been able to train hard enough and also got the necessary tough matches in Madrid and Rome. I really feel like playing under the pressure and playing with the nerves was important for me so I feel totally ready,” he said.

“I feel like before every Grand Slam of course if you can avoid tough, long matches in the beginning, it's going to increase your chances for the tournament later on. But in some ways I'm happy to be here and I just want to get through that first round to get the campaign going. That's my focus right now, not think too far ahead.”

Unburdened by expectations, Federer can swing freely and let the results take care of themselves.

“I played here for many years. I started here at 20. I won here 10 years ago. It has been one of the greatest moments in my life, so I don't know what to expect as far as the results are concerned. It's a bit like in Australia in 2017. I had no expectations. I'm just happy to be back in good health. Up 'till now I would say my preparation has gone well. In Madrid, my body reacted well to a surface I haven't played for many years. So today I took a day off, because my team felt I didn't have anything more to prove in training.

“I will play 45 minutes tomorrow, and it seems I'm playing on Sunday, so I'm ready to start.”

In addition to his 2009 triumph at Roland Garros, which saw him complete the career Grand Slam, Federer also reached the final in Paris from 2006 to 08 and in 2011.

Federer has a 65-16 record at Roland Garros. He has reached the second week in his past 11 appearances.

Date: 25 May 2019, Source: ATP

Federer: "I'm very happy to be in Rome"

In the end, coming to Rome for the first time since 2016 was an easy decision for Roger Federer, a four-time finalist at the ATP Masters 1000 event.

Would Federer rather practise in five-degree weather in Switzerland, or play matches at one his favourite cities in the world, in front of thousands of passionate Italian fans?

I've just come from practising for five weeks after Miami. I think I was playing well in Madrid, so I just said, again, 'Let's come to Rome,' a city I like so much as well. There would be excitement, more excitement than me coming to a practice court in Switzerland. I thought that would be nice,” Federer said, smiling.

Honestly, I love to play matches. Regardless of what happens here, I just think it's good for me to play matches at this stage.”

The 37-year-old last played at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome in 2016, falling to Dominic Thiem in the third round. Federer also lost to Thiem last week in the quarter-finals of the Mutua Madrid Open, where Federer ended his three-year absence from the surface.

After the loss on Friday, Federer said he was unsure if he'd play in Rome. But he made up his mind quickly, posting a video on social media on Saturday in which he confirmed his presence.

I'm very happy to be here. I'm pumped up to play well. I mean, my excitement couldn't be bigger,” Federer said. “The moment I landed in Rome yesterday, I was so happy to be here. I love this city. Always enjoyed playing in Italy. It's probably the country I've played the most junior tennis in. Coming down from Switzerland to the clay courts was always a logical junior trip. They have very strong junior tournaments here. I love being here, especially in this city as well.”

Rome is one of only two Masters 1000 tournaments that Federer has not won, in addition to the Rolex Monte Carlo Masters. The Swiss reached the Rome final in 2003 (l. to Mantilla), 2006 (l. to Nadal), 2013 (l. to Nadal) and 2015 (l. to Djokovic).

Despite his long break from playing on clay, Federer said, he felt little rust during his return to the surface last week in Madrid.

“I think it always goes back to the fact that I did grow up on this surface. Sliding is something I actually enjoy doing. The problem is, like, the more time I spend on clay, maybe sometimes the more excited I get playing on the surface, start sliding around too much instead of actually moving sometimes like on the hard courts and only sliding when really required,” said Federer, who will face Portugal's Joao Sousa in the second round.

I think this week, then next week in Paris, it's going to be interesting to see how I play the points, how I do it all. In Madrid, like we said, conditions were extremely fast, so you could play serve and volley, you could come to the net. Here maybe it's easier to play drop shots, easier maybe to go backhands up the line. On fast courts it's maybe not so simple to do that at will.

I must say also in practice in Switzerland I felt good right away. Very happy where I'm at, to be quite honest. I was a bit surprised that it went as easy as it did.”

Date: 15 May 2019, Source: ATP