Roger Federer is the man of the moment. Well, at least co-man of the moment with Rafael Nadal. So far, no one has been able to compete with the King of Clay on his favorite surface. Will the Swiss play in Paris in June, and if so, what are his chances of winning the whole thing?
Old Man Problems
Federer is by no means a young player. At the age of 35, he should not be anywhere near the level he is at, never mind winning the first 3 major tournaments of the year and defeating 4 top-10 players en route to claiming an 18th Grand Slam title. Of course, Federer is no mere human. Just admit it Fed. You’re some sort of mutant human or a robot clone from the future.
Conspiracy theories aside, Federer is not who he once was. His body needs time to rest, and he’s skipped almost all of the clay season to recover. Which brings up the question, should he play the French? First of all, clay is not a good surface for Federer. It’s known for being his weakest surface, and it is also the one that takes the most toll on the body. The play is considerably slowed down, and points that would normally take five shots can take three times as long. Federer’s endurance will be pushed to the limits if he decides to play in Paris, and while he looked good in Australia, we’ve seen him suffer from fatigue in other Grand Slam tournaments in years past.
Federer is not in the same physical condition as he was 10 years ago, and he knows it. There’s a reason the Swiss has decided to skip two months of tennis, opting to practice in Dubai instead. At the end of the day, it’s up to him as to whether he competes in Roland Garros, but it seems pretty likely, and Federer himself has said that he expects to be in Paris in a couple weeks’ time, and there are several signs pointing to his involvement, including the order of 24 cans of the official Babolat tennis balls that will be used in the French Open.
Second Heaven? Probably Not
If Federer does decide to compete in Paris, what are his odds of winning? According to the bookies, not great. Most of the major betting sites give the Maestro 12-1 odds to win in Paris. Of course, Federer has defied those odds before. No one expected him to win in Australia, but he did. No one expected him to follow that incredible performance up with a third Sunshine Double, but he did. The only person who believed in Federer was Federer himself.
Clay may be Federer’s worst surface, but he’s not bad on it by any means of the imagination. In fact, Roger has reached five French Open finals, losing four of them to Rafael Nadal. That’s good for third in the Open Era. There’s also the added benefit of the top two players in the world, Murray and Djokovic, enjoying a recent decline in form. If Federer goes out there guns-a-blazing, with no pressure on his shoulders, there’s no telling what he could do, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for the Swiss.
Firstly, his seeding won’t be ideal. With Nadal’s incredible clay court swing so far, in which he still hasn’t lost a single match, the Spaniard has surpassed Federer in both the Race to London and the ATP Rankings, meaning that Federer will most likely be seeded number five for the French Open. Yes, he did it as number seventeen in Australia, but surely, he couldn’t do that again, could he? There’s also the slight problem of Rafael Nadal, greatest clay court player of all time, winner of nine French Open titles, ten Monte Carlo titles, ten Barcelona titles, the arch-nemesis of the Swiss himself, the only player who has been able to consistently defeat the Maestro (including winning four French Opens against him), and arguably the second-best player so far this season standing in Fed’s way. So as I said, just a slight problem.
As things look right now, Federer doesn’t have the greatest chances of winning. He hasn’t had much practice on clay, it’s not his best surface, and Nadal is playing some of the best tennis we’ve seen from him in recent years. But what does it hurt to try? He’s already defied the odds once, who says he can’t do it again? But of course, who says he’s even playing the French at all? There’s a lot of questions floating around concerning Federer and the French Open, and we’ll have to wait a couple of weeks to find the answers when the French Open officially starts on May 28th.
Fed will play the French Open, but he won’t be looking to win it. Give me a strong showing into the quarterfinals and perhaps even the semis if things go his way.