Roger Federer has conducted himself so wisely throughout his career that it was going to be easy to praise any move he took regarding Roland Garros. Had he chosen to play it: Why not? Federer has played so well this year that it might have been worth a go at a second straight major, particularly given the rather tepid tennis played this year by Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. Could it hurt to run around the dirt a little, get in some extended match play and be in better shape for Wimbledon? And then there’s the little matter of pleasing the hundreds of thousands of fans who attend the tournament, as well as millions more watching on television, many of whom only pay attention to tennis during the four majors.
But it’s also hard to disagree with Federer opting out. Why exert himself excessively on the most physically demanding surface of them all? Why get drained on either a hot or cold day in repeated epic matches? And most treacherous of all, why risk injury when the Slam Federer has done best at is right around the corner? As for the fans, Wimbledon will soon enough provide plenty of chances for the casual tennis fan to watch Federer.
Clearly, at the age of 35, Federer is becoming extremely prudent with his playing schedule. Just after winning the Australian Open, he took off most of February. After his back-to-back wins at Indian Wells and Miami, Federer has skipped the entire clay court season. After Wimbledon, he likely won’t play another tournament until the week of August 7 in Montreal (he turns 36 on August 8).
Still, it will be a shame to be at Roland Garros and, for the second straight year in a row, not see Federer. Performance-wise, Federer is likely the second or third best clay courter of the last 15 years, winning the French Open once, reaching the finals four other times. Stylistically, it has always been fascinating to see how Federer’s brings his tools to the dirt, be it his textured baseline game, sublime movement and, during his sole Roland Garros title run in 2009, hearty embrace of the recreational player’s pet, the drop shot. Alas, no dirt. But soon enough, grass.
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