Roger Federer has officially withdrawn from the 2017 French Open. We pretty much saw it coming, but now that it has actually happened… This is when the enormity of the move actually sinks in.
He thought about doing it. He voiced the possibility of doing it. And he’s only gone and done it.
Around this time last year, an injured Roger Federer was gutted at the prospect of missing his first Grand Slam tournament in 17 years. Fast forward 12 months, and he is voluntarily skirting the dirt in order to bring his vintage best to the hallowed courts of Wimbledon.
You have heard some of them a million times, and you may never have heard others before. Nevertheless, here are the pros and cons of Federer’s big decision.
THE MINDSET – He was unrivalled for the first three months of the season, demolishing every top player he came up against so lethally and so unstoppably that it was almost disrespectful. Even in the lone match he lost – to an inspired world no. 117 Evgeny Donskoy – Federer held match points. The Swiss star began the year with no expectations, and continued with no expectations, to the point where he was holding the three biggest titles of the first section of the year and had compiled a 19-1 win/loss tally. As he steers clear of clay and maintains a clinical record – and has clear reasons for doing so – Federer can return to tour with the notion that he is still the man to beat.
THE PHYSICALITY – Last season, after a Wimbledon semifinal in which he fell from the brink of victory, Federer ended his 2016 campaign prematurely. Fans were devastated; observers worldwide were shocked. But upon his comeback, the 17-time Grand Slam champion clinched the 18th major had remained elusive for over four years – proving that years dedicated to this sport at the highest level have instilled in him the ability to produce world class tennis at a moment’s notice.
Or perhaps it is just the raw talent that made Toni Nadal state that Roger Federer was born to play tennis. Either way, the world no. 5 has the confidence that his current break will do him good in the long run – as his statement on his withdrawal reflects.
THE FRENCH OPEN – Rafael Nadal is rediscovering his vintage best on the surface he has previously dominated. The stop-start-run-slide intensity of the clay might be seen to be asking for trouble as Federer sets his eyes firmly on grass-courts. And as the crowd favourite skips this prestigious event, he ensures he will enter Wimbledon having won the last Grand Slam that he entered – which goes back to the importance of providing him with a good mentality.
Maybe there are enough legitimate reasons to skip one of the biggest tournaments of the year, which fields a troop of players that he has been shutting out all season.
On that note, here are the potential negatives of Federer’s latest move.
THE MINDSET – He has, indeed, been the best man on tour this season. But it is his glittering record that could prove to be Federer’s downfall. In three Grand Slam finals following his 2012 Wimbledon victory, the Swiss star played a virtually flawless tournament – only for the nerves, the occasion and Novak Djokovic to provide him with a mental block in the final round. This was when Federer played with a sense of urgency, and with an expectation that restrained him in the big moments. In Melbourne, the key from the first point to the last was this: That he was playing with the belief that he had nothing to lose.
After winning big in the first part of the year, Federer named Wimbledon as his next big target. The 36-year-old may have stated that he is skipping clay to be ready for the grass and hard-courts, but it is no secret what the main target is. Federer believes that winning a 19th major at The Championships is possible – if not probable.
Federer has also not competed with this expectation on his shoulders since before Wimbledon. Even after Melbourne, he continued to testify that every victory he compiled was a surprise. But by skipping weeks of action to produce his best tennis during one fortnight, the one-handed-backhander raises the possibility of becoming his own worse enemy.
THE PHYSICALITY – Six months at the sidelines did Federer the world of good, but could ten weeks more be too much? He voiced the concerns himself as he pondered upon whether to play on the dirt, and the disruption of the rhythm he developed could be costly for the 36-year-old. Smartly, he opened his 2017 season at exhibition event the Hopman Cup. There, plentiful doubles practice helped him find his groove, whilst a loss to Alexander Zverev did not stain his record on the season.
German tournament Halle will surely be the place where Federer fine-tunes his game ahead of Wimbledon, while he also took a trip to Munich last season as he lacked match play. But if the Swiss wobbles there, his aura of invincibility could take a knock. And while his history at the big event sparkles, it’s not like Federer has never lost early at SW19. Just ask Sergiy Stakhovsky.
THE FRENCH OPEN – For the first time since he won the event as a 19-year-old, Rafael Nadal stumbled at the 2009 edition of Roland Garros and departed in the fourth round. The man who stepped up to take the dominant Spaniard’s crown was not victor Robin Soderling, or rising Novak Djokovic. It was Roger Federer.
Federer can play on all surfaces, and ‘all surfaces’ includes clay. Nadal’s winnings vastly overshadow those of Federer, but a Grand Slam title and six Masters trophies on the surface display an efficiency on the dirt. Nobody expected the Swiss to win in Melbourne, and he thrived in achieving what many considered impossible. Given his recent showings, it would probably have taken a bitter non-fan to give him zero chance at lifting the French Open trophy. After all, if Nadal gets shockingly upset in Paris, who else could be counted on to step up to take advantage right now?
Thanks for reading! What do you think of Federer’s decision? Will he still wipe the floor with everyone at Wimbledon? Let me know in the comment section!
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