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Read & Watch: So Did Roger Really Miss The Clay?

Roger Federer played his first clay-court match in nearly three years on Tuesday at the Mutua Madrid Open. The fourth seed routed France’s Richard Gasquet 6-2, 6-3 for his 18th victory in their 20-match FedEx ATP Head2Head series.
But did Federer, who skipped the clay-court season the past two years, truly miss playing and sliding on the red dirt? Well, it’s complicated. On the one hand, no.
“Look, not too much, to be quite honest with you. I’d love to tell you, I miss it so much,” Federer said.
Read: Federer Routs Gasquet In Clay-Court Return
But on the other hand, yes. “I missed it in ’16 because I was in Paris. I was really trying everything to get in shape and that was a very frustrating period for me.
“When I came here I had to pull out because my knee was swollen and I played Rome because I had a bad back and a bad knee because I broke my back here on top of all things, so that’s maybe when I missed playing [Roland Garros] the most,” Federer said.
The next year, in 2017, Federer skipped the entire clay-court season for the first time. The prior season, he had missed the last five months of the year to give his knee more time to recuperate.

“It was a decision for my longevity, for my health, for my family,” Federer said. “Last year, I just felt like, you know what, it worked so well in ’17, let’s do the same thing again in ’18. And I didn’t really miss it because I was enjoying myself at home and having a good time and again, looking at the longevity.”
But, Federer said, if he hadn’t played on clay this year, he would have been full of regrets.
“If I would have skipped the clay again, I think I would have felt like that’s not the right decision. I would have always felt regrets not being on the clay in 2019 because my knee problem is far enough away now because that was still playing a little bit part of our decision in ’17, to be quite honest, not from my side but more from the team,” he said.
“So it feels good to be back on the clay now, and I enjoy it to be honest. Some of these rallies where you get pushed to the side, you slide, you hit the ball, you slide, you hit the ball, you come back into it, then you can defend in a different manner than you do on the hard courts, or on the grass.”

The 37-year-old Swiss will face Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics or France’s Gael Monfils in the third round, but the fourth seed also would welcome a 39th FedEx ATP Head2Head matchup with Nadal. The Spaniard leads their rivalry 23-15, including 13-2 on clay.
Asked if he’d like to play Nadal, the second seed, in the final, Federer said: “Yeah, that means I’m in the final. And I didn’t have many chances to beat him the last three years on clay, so years go by quickly,” Federer said.
The two have met three times in Madrid. Nadal won two of them, but Federer’s victory came in the 2009 final, a 6-4, 6-4 win.
“I remember back to the final here in Madrid as one of my good matches on clay, no doubt about it. I think he was pretty tired as well. I played solid. Of course, I would love to play on clay against him again, even though I know it’s a tough challenge and all that,” Federer said.
“But again it would be nice to have played him at the beginning of his career on clay and also at the very end and see how it all plays out. And if I said I don’t want to play him on clay, I think then I would have made a mistake to be on the clay in the first place because he is the measuring stick for all us players.”

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Source: ATP World Tour

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