Federer feels less pressure for clay season

Having finally won the French Open last year, Roger Federer is feeling far less pressure entering the clay-court season.

The top-ranked player is preparing to play both singles and doubles at the Rome Masters this week.

“Questions are already very different. It doesn’t start off with, ‘Oh, are you going to win the French Open this year?’ So it’s just a bit more relaxing,” Federer said at the Foro Italico Sunday.

“I also got a lot of confidence from winning the French Open last year. You feel like if you can do it once you can do it twice.”

Still, Federer rated rival Rafael Nadal as the top player on clay after the Spaniard’s dominant performance at last week’s Monte Carlo Masters, which Federer skipped.

“He’s been on an absolute tear for the last five years. He’s hardly lost any matches—you can almost count those on one hand—and he’s only lost one match at the French Open, so I would think he’s still the favorite,” Federer said.

“I would love to say I’m the big favorite but I don’t think it’s quite right, even though I won the French Open last year. He’s just proven again in Monaco how tough he is.”

Federer said he is feeling refreshed after a month off, having taken a vacation and then prepared for the clay season with 10 days of intense workouts.

“Practice is (the) key during this stage getting ready for clay and the long stretch from Rome on to Wimbledon,” he said. “It’s a long one and I need to be fresh at the back end as well at Wimbledon, when it comes to hopefully playing another final.”

Nadal’s victory in Monte Carlo snapped an 11-month title drought during which the Spaniard struggled with various injuries. Nadal decided to withdraw from this week’s Barcelona Open to stay fresh.

“When I have physical problems it’s more difficult,” Nadal said. “For me, it’s important to run well, to move well and practice well. If I can’t do these things it’s very difficult to have the chance to win a tournament, especially the important tournaments.”

Nadal’s run of four consecutive French Open titles ended with a fourth-round loss to Robin Soderling last year, and the two players could meet again in the quarterfinals here.

Nadal is also in Federer’s half of the draw, while 2008 champion Novak Djokovic is the top player in the other half.

Djokovic is coming off a lopsided semifinal loss to Fernando Verdasco in Monte Carlo, a match in which the Serb struggled to hold serve.

“There’s a lot of things going on in my mind when I need to serve. But this is the crisis I guess everybody has to go through, and I’m trying to work on it mentally and technically,” Djokovic said. “It’s going to pay off. I know it’s going to come back. I know I’m going to serve as I was. But in this moment there is a little struggle.”

A new 10,500-seat stadium is making its debut at this year’s tournament, and players are already raving about how close the fans are to the court.

“It looks like the Colosseum of tennis,” Djokovic said. “It’s all very close, it’s great.”

Federer will pair with Swiss Davis Cup teammate Yves Allegro in doubles.

“I haven’t played doubles in a while, so I asked Yves if he was in the mood to do it,” Federer said.
Federer and Allegro were given a wild card, and will open against Johan Brunstrom of Sweden and Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands Antilles.

In singles, the top eight players have first-round byes.

Federer will play either Marcos Baghdatis or Ernests Gulbis, and Nadal will face either Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay or Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany.

Date: 25.04.2010, Source: AP


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