Q&A with Roger Federer as he assesses his French Open chances
After his scintillating form in the opening week of the French Open, 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer has admitted he has surprised himself with his performances in the opening four rounds after his return to clay courts.
Ahead of his quarter-final against his compatriot Stan Wawrinka, Federer sat down with Eurosport hosts Barbara Schett and Mats Wilander for an extended chat.
Q: Are you surprised by your form at the French Open so far?
RF: “I’m a little bit surprised but I had a good draw so I have taken advantage of that. I also think I came into the French Open feeling good, the body was ready, mentally I felt like it could all work out. That first match against Sonego was good, he’s played a lot of clay court tennis so that was proving to me that things are good and then after that I was able to control the matches. As I say, the way the draw worked and the way I started playing I expected it of myself. In terms of how I play, I challenge myself to come up with something every day, even if it’s just something simple like hitting five cross-court backhand. So far, so good – I have been quite good with my decision-making this tournament. It’s going to be more important moving forward.”
Q: You have used serve-volley tactics in clay. Do you believe it can work against the top players?
RF: “The last couple of matches have been easier to use serve and volley, it’s been really nice weather. The sunshine is there and the ball flies fast. It’s like Madrid and it pay off coming to the net and I think statistics will prove that too. I have been doing it too on key moments of the second serve. I think also, to some extent, I am doing it more because I am allowed to and my opponents have been returning against it from really far back.
“The ball was bouncing so high that you really need to make a special connection to beat the guy coming in that I just thought it would be a good play to do. By doing it in Madrid gave me confidence to do it here too. I think whether you use serve and volley really depends on who you do it against. I do believe on a nice, hot and sunny day on clay it’s almost easier to serve and volley than on a slow, hard court in a night session because the ball will bounce out of your strike zone, guys will sometimes return back against you whereas on a slow hard court the ball stays lower, the guys will return in and take your time away – we all think clay is super-slow but in fact that’s not always the case.”
Q: What are the benefits of playing on clay again this year?
RF: “I just hope playing the clay court season will help me swing through the ball because on clay you always have time to set-up the shot and swing. On clay, you can’t guide the ball like you might on some surfaces. The best clay court players in the game, Rafa being the one, they’ve always created stuff. There is a dead ball and they’ll set it up and they just swing full power through the ball and I think that for me to do that for the last six to eight weeks I think will help me with the dead ball and not just walk up to it, hit it flatish and come in. I think that’s why it’s beneficial for me to play on the clay.”
Q: Did you watch the epic Wawrinka v Tsitsipas match? What are your thoughts?
RF: “That was unbelievable. I saw some of it. I was in the press conference, I think I was also playing at the same time! I watched pretty much the whole fifth set so that was unbelievable. It had everything. The crowd loved it – they probably would’ve liked it a little bit more too but Stan was happy it ended. [watching the match point] That was a sick pass at the end on match point, Jesus, right on the line! These are the ones were Tsitsipas doesn’t know whether to take it or not. It’s a tough end for Tsitsipas but for Stan it’s amazing and I was really happy for him, especially, since his knee problems, which were severe, so it’s nice to see him back and winning.”
Q: What do you remember of your quarter-final defeat Wawrinka at Roland-Garros in 2015?
RF: “It’s different times. He was on a roll at the time, obviously he’s on a roll at the time, and he now but it’s a different year. We’ve both had knee surgeries in the meantime. I don’t know – a lot has happened since. I’d say in that match it was a little bit windy. It was a good day then I believe, sunny. It was Lenglen then but is it going to be Chatrier tomorrow – we’ll see? Is it going to be raining? Is there going to be wind? All of that will play into the occasion. Is Stan going to be tired or not? I don’t know. So a different game. I will look back at that match [in 2015] and see what did I do right and wrong? And same, what did he do so well, but I know that when Stan gets rolling he can crush the ball from back and he’s just very hard to stop on clay. That’s why sometimes the match in his racket and that’s why he’s tough to play.”
Q: Does anything stress you out?
RF: “The kids challenge me sometimes! Like any parent, you can’t ignore that. You tell them five times to come to get to the table because dinner is ready and they don’t come! I get load sometimes like ‘come on guys – it’s about time what is going on! Why are you not listening to me.’ It takes a lot [to stress me out] it’s true. I’m a relaxed and mellow guy and that helps. I try to anticipate – you know tennis players we anticipate – but sometimes we do that too much and with kids there have got to be rules but at the same time you have to be flexible too.”
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