Column: Roger Federer skipping 2nd-straight French Open
Millions of Roger Federer fans are saddened to have learned that Roger will be skipping the French Open again this year, the second year in a row — the previous year due to knee surgery.
What makes it tough to swallow is he won the first leg of the 4 majors, the Australian, and had an outside chance to win a “Grand Slam” which he has never done and may never again get the chance. Only two male players have won a slam (winning all 4 majors in a calendar year) Rod Laver in 1969 and Don Budge 1938.
He has only won the French Open once, but he has beaten Rafael Nadal the last two times they’ve played, so even on Rafa’s home surface clay, there would have been a decent chance he could have prevailed. Add in to that Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic have been faltering in their tournament bids as of lately, and with Nadal getting beat in the quarters in Rome last week by Dominic Thiem — the French Open could have been open season for anyone. Yes, Roger plays better on fast surfaces. Yes, Roger is now 35 years old and needs to pick and choose where he plays. Yes, he doesn’t need to play the full clay court season and didn’t, but why not see if you could make it to the second week at Roland Garros? If you do, the tennis world would have gone crazy — and if by any slim chance he had made it to the finals, probably the biggest TV audience to date would have been watching. Great for tennis and great for Roger Federer.
”It was a tough decision to take, because he likes to play the French Open, likes to play the big tournaments,” Severin Luthi, who coaches Federer, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Monday. ”But I think it was the best decision for him. It’s an investment in his career — for this season and for the coming seasons.”
Federer posted a message entitled ”Roger to skip Roland Garros” on his website a week ago Monday, announcing that he will stay away from competing on clay entirely in 2017 and instead will prepare for the grass- and hard-court events that follow.
”I’ve been working really hard, both on and off the court, during the last month,” Federer wrote, ”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.” He won the title at the clay-court major in 2009 to complete a career Grand Slam.
”We talked a few times about it but wanted to give ourselves time to think about it,” he added. ”We spoke again yesterday and made the final decision today.”
Luthi said Federer plans to play at two grass-court tournaments in Germany — at Stuttgard starting June 12, and at Halle the week after that — before heading to Wimbledon, where play begins on July 3.
Andy Roddick and Novak Djokovic concurred they both believed that Roger made the best decision for his career at this stage of the game when asked about his decision.
But with all that said — dang it anyway. Now we’ll never know if Roger might have prevailed — and how enthralling it would have been, one match at a time on the red clay of the French open. The French Open goes from May 22nd to June 11th and Wimbledon begins July 3rd.
Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or firstname.lastname@example.org.