Roger Federer announced that he will not play Roland Garros, the year’s second grand slam, citing his plans to skip the clay season entirely in order to focus on the grass and hard court seasons. While he skipped the tournament last year, primarily due to his knee, his form and need for more time spent in a training block was evident. This year, his form has been phenomenal, and he has mostly been resting since early April. Regardless, it will be the second straight year that the French Open will feel his absence. In his first remarks after defeating Rafael Nadal for the Miami Open title, Federer told the media he planned to take rest and skip the major tournaments of the clay season, but maintained (with the word ‘probably’) that the plan was to play Roland Garros. As recent as the lead up to his charity match, Match for Africa 4 in Seattle, the 35-year-old Swiss told Tennis Channel’s Mary Carillo that the plan was still to play the French Open, but he would not play just to show up and play, mentioning the need for being excited to switch to clay, and being “eager to achieve something over there” (in Paris).
The 18-time grand slam champion had also mentioned on a few occasions that his scheduling would be much different now than if say, he were a 23-year-old, looking to play over twenty tournaments in a season. Federer made a difficult decision to skip Roland Garros, a grand slam, but it is the right one. Compared to grass and hard courts, clay isn’t as great of a surface for the Swiss. He can play well on it, but he can play great on grass. As we’ve seen in just the first three months of 2017, he can play great on hard courts too. It only makes sense to skip the clay season entirely, rest the body more, and have an early start at preparing for the grass season, most importantly, Wimbledon.
Points are longer and more grueling on clay. Turning 36 in August, it isn’t ideal for Federer to grind out longer, more physical points, as he aims to preserve and prolong his career. Furthermore, the weather in Paris in late May can be cool and damp, conditions which do not suit well to Federer’s all-court, attacking brand of tennis. Risking tweaking his back or now, his knee, with less than two weeks time until the grass court season is far from ideal. By choosing to skip clay entirely, including Roland Garros, Federer can switch his mind to grass early, and prepare with a few weeks of additional time. It’s a decision made only with his game, and his career in mind, for the long term.
Next on his schedule is the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart, Germany, beginning June 12 (see 2017 playing schedule).
Roger to skip Roland Garros; will focus on the grass & hardcourt season
Regrettably, I’ve decided not to participate in the French Open. 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. The start to the year has been magical for me but I need to recognize that scheduling will be the key to my longevity moving forward. Thus, my team and I concluded today that playing just one event on clay was not in the best interest of my tennis and physical preparation for the remainder of the season. I will miss the French fans, who have always been so supportive and I look forward to seeing them at Roland Garros next year.