Federer looks to repeat feats of clay

Has the Swiss maestro done the hard part? Did his victory in 2009 change the established order of things? After losing four times in a row to Rafael Nadal on the Paris clay, Roger Federer must have thought that he was cursed, but he finally got his hands on the legendary Coupe des Mousquetaires at the 11th attempt.

His detractors will say that Federer only won thanks to Nadal's unbelievable defeat to Robin Söderling in the round of 16 which shocked the tennis world. To hear the reigning champion talk about it however, 2009 was a turning point, and not just in terms of his own personal trophy cabinet.

The win banished all doubts in the Swiss champion's mind about his ability to win at Roland Garros. "For one of the first times I'm going to get there with a smile on my face and be able to say to myself: 'you'll be OK, you've already won here'," said the Basle native during a press conference in Miami back in March. "I'll be doing everything in my power to retain my title. In previous years I put myself under real pressure, but this time it will be different. I'll be able to concentrate on my tennis and enjoy my stay, which wasn't always the case in the past."

Federer's frank admission is also a warning shot fired in the direction of his rivals. It is true that the Swiss legend took a good while to come to terms with the red clay courts at the French Open, particularly Philippe Chatrier (centre) court, where he lost three finals in a row between 2006 – 2008. While Rafael Nadal was certainly a formidable opponent, Federer's quest for the one Grand Slam title which consistently eluded him sat heavy on his shoulders.

That weight was lifted last year, and the world No. 1 will approach the 2010 tournament in a different frame of mind. Now that he is free at last of this burden, perhaps Federer is dreaming of an ideal scenario where he exorcises his demons against Rafa in the final. He may have settled the score with Roland Garros, but he still has some unfinished business with the Majorcan clay-court supremo.

Having swept all before him down under in Melbourne, Federer is thus the only player who can achieve the legendary calendar Grand Slam this year, and if he manages to retain his Paris title, then he will be half way there and the media frenzy will go into overdrive. Whatever happens in the mean time at the tournaments in Rome and Madrid, Roger will come to Paris as the favourite. Unless of course Rafa can prove that he is back to his best. And then, anything can happen…

Date: 02.05.2010, Source: Roland Garros


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