As Jimmy Connors once said, “In the modern game, you’re either a clay court specialist, a grass court specialist, or a hard court specialist… or you’re ROGER FEDERER.” Federer has proved each bit of the statement to be true, to everyone’s believes.
Hence, when he announced on 16th May that he will skip the French Open at Roland Garros, it was pretty much expected, because he had not played any clay tournaments, prior to Roland Garros; though he was seen practicing on the clay courts in Dubai, and had received 200 tennis balls from Roland Garros as well. He has not been in action since the 2nd April, the day he won the ATP 1000 Miami Masters, the season, he enjoyed the most, and gave his best in.
“Regrettably, I’ve decided not to participate in the French Open,” Federer said in a statement on his website. “I’ve been working really hard, both on and off the court, during the last month but in order to try and play on the ATP World Tour for many years to come, I feel it’s best to skip the clay court season this year and prepare for the grass and hard court seasons.
Preparing for the Parisian clay takes more out of a player than getting ready for a hard court Grand Slam. Players are well tuned to playing on hard courts all year round, but clay offers a different challenge. It is somewhat tough to play on clay with the bounce of the ball, the stumbling revolutions on the ball and footwork required, on the slippery surface.
When Federer won in Miami, he made it clear that he was going to take time off to plan the further career and thus, was going to miss clay court tournaments in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid and Rome. It was obviously clear that clay wasn’t in his schedule, and skipping the entire season and then playing only one clay tournament was not a wise decision. Also, when Federer won the Australian Open, his coach, Ivan Ljubicic said that they’re planning for the grass season, the latter hard season, and the beginning of the 2018 season; which cleanly stated that clay was not on the cards for Federer.
Talking about his overall performances, he has a record of 704-140 on hard courts (83.4% wins), 161-24 on grass (87.02 wins) and that win ratio rapidly drops on clay to 217-72 (75.08% wins), whereas, he has been a finalist at the French Open and other clay tournaments more than once. Clay is definitely the least preferred by the Federer team. Hence, if tennis needs to see Federer for a longer period, this break in the clay season is necessary.