Roger Federer’s decision to play the Italian Open on his return to the clay court after three years would have made fans in Rome very happy. Except, the tournament organisers decided to use this as an opportunity to make more money by hiking ticket prices.

The organisers doubled ticket prices after it was announced he would be playing last week in a video shared on his social media, a move that was promptly criticised by the 37-year-old.

“That’s obviously disappointing to hear,” said Federer in Rome.

“They made it in a way like they rewarded the fans who bought tickets earlier, which is sort of strange,” he added, saying there wasn’t anything he could do about it.

“Look, I just really hope it doesn’t take away the fact I’m really happy to be here. There’s going to be good crowds hopefully, good atmosphere. I’m pumped up to play well. I mean, my excitement couldn’t be bigger.”

Playing his first clay court event in three years, the world No 3 lost in three sets to Austrian Dominic Thiem in the Madrid Open quarter-finals last Friday, despite holding two match points. He announced his return to the Rome Masters, a event he is yet to win, soon after.

The third seed had a first-round bye and will begin his tournament against Portugal’s Joao Sousa, who battled past American Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/4) to reach the second round.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion said he chose to play the Masters 1000 event ahead of the French Open because he wanted match practice on clay.

“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’.

“Madrid is a tough place to play. I felt like playing somewhat maybe more sea level conditions would be good for me. There would be excitement, more excitement than me coming to a practice court in Switzerland,” he said on his last-minute decision to play.

“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.”

Federer will be returning to Roland Garros after a span of three years, having missed it due to injury in 2016 and skipping it to rest before the grass season in the last two years.

With AFP inputs