Roger Federer just recorded a stunning start to his ‘comeback’ season, winning the Miami Open title for the third time, his third big trophy of the year. Beating arch-rival Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-4 to complete a rare sweep of both Indian Wells and Miami, the 18-time Grand Slam champion is enjoying a charmed 2017 season with a 19-1 record.
However, despite the superlative level of tennis, Federer is keen on taking a break after the incredible start and has said that he will be out of action for almost two months, till the next Grand Slam.
The 35-year-old will skip the upcoming European clay court season till the French Open to recharge his batteries and help his body recover in time for the next three Grand Slams and, more importantly for him, the grass court season.
“I’m not 24 anymore so things have changed in a big way and I probably won’t play any clay court event except the French. That is what it is going to look like, I need rest, my body needs healing, I need time as well to prepare, you will probably see me at the French again,” he told ESPN in an on-court interview after his win over Nadal.
“When I’m healthy and I’m feeling good, I can produce tennis like this. If I’m not feeling this good there’s no chance I would be in the final competing with Rafa. That’s why this break coming into clay court season and focusing everything on the French, the grass (Wimbledon) and then the hardcourts (US Open) is going to be the key for me,” he added.
There are four big ATP clay-court tournaments before the French Open starts late May – Monte Carlo, Madrid, Barcelona and Rome. And while Federer is by no means weak on clay, it has not been the best surface for him throughout his career, and it makes sense to skip it when there are no points to defend.
Another reason for Federer to avoid the clay courts is to rest having undergone a knee surgery after the Australian Open last year that kept him out of almost the entire season, and he is looking to avoid any extra strain on that knee.
“Part of the situation was that my knee was really strange on the clay last year, so maybe being away from the clay as much as possible is maybe is a good thing as well, even though I don’t think it was because of the clay as such. But my physio, my fitness guy, thought that could be also a good thing not to be to be too much on clay. I feel very comfortable, very confident it is the right decision,” he added.
Sights set on grass
The break during the clay court season will mean that he comes back rejuvenated right before Wimbledon and the grass-court tournaments. Grass has always been Federer’s best surface and it is clear that he has his sights set on continuing his fantastic run to his favourite ATP events, especially Wimbledon.
“Wimbledon has to be the biggest goal now, in the near future, the American hard courts I guess as well. The French Open I guess, to some extent, we will see what happens, no pressure there really.
“But all of the grass is important to me,” he said.
“For me basically the second half of the season is the big priority which is why I am taking this break now,” added Federer.
The 35-year-old had reached the semi-final of Wimbledon last year, before bowing out to Milos Raonic is a tense five-setter. Federer had a fall in that match, which had exacerbated his injury, and he had withdrawn from the rest of the season after that.
Meanwhile, Federer conceded that his comeback period is officially over, after winning his third title of the year.
“The comeback is over,” Federer said. “I’m happy that nothing major happened throughout this period. It’s been a dream run on the court, off the court as well. My body has reacted very well and I couldn’t be happier, of course.”
“I told Severin, my coach, when I was warming up if I would have just played the Miami finals, no Indian Wells, no Australian Open, we would still be very happy right now,” Federer said. “But I have way more.”
Federer, who is making the most of this new go-for-broke mentality that is winning him titles, added that enjoyment in playing tennis again is a big confidence boost.
“I think I am definitely profiting from confidence, and then also from the right mindset. [I’m] able to compress all my energy into one single match and not be distracted by everything else going on around me,” Federer said.