Federer: 'You're Just Happy To Make Shots And Not Look Ridiculous'
Roger Federer has played 1,472 ATP Tour matches and faced hundreds of opponents throughout his 21-year career. But after his Roland Garros semi-final loss to Rafael Nadal, his sixth to the Spaniard at this event, he admitted his clay-court battles against the 11-time champion are unmatched in difficulty.
“He makes you feel uncomfortable the way he defends the court and plays on clay. There is nobody who even plays remotely close to him,” said Federer. “I don't even know who I need to go search for to go practice with somebody who plays like him. It's just amazing how he plays from deep and then is able to bounce back and forth from the baseline.”
The Swiss star powered into the semi-finals for the first time since 2012. Competing with a larger racquet head for the first time at the second major of the year, Federer’s backhand had more bite than in previous visits and allowed for even greater success in rushing the net. He won 127 of 175 net points (72.6%) in his first five rounds and went to the net 60 times in his quarter-final victory over Stan Wawrinka.
But Federer’s trips to the net on Friday had two things working against him. Not only does Nadal love a target, but brutal winds topping 39 miles per hour slowed his approaches and enabled the Spaniard to comfortably rip passing shots. Federer won just 17 of 35 net points on the day.
“You get to a point where you're just happy to make shots and not look ridiculous. It's that bad,” said Federer of the swirling winds. “There is also no way to practice in these conditions. It's all a mindset. It's footwork…It was difficult, but I accept that. He played in an incredible way. He has incredible abilities on clay. I knew that ahead of time.”
Despite the loss, Federer can consider his clay-court season a success. Before the start of the clay season, the Swiss admitted being unsure if he remembered how to slide on the surface after not competing on it for three years. He finished it with a 9-2 record, only losing to Nadal and Dominic Thiem. Federer also amassed 1,080 ATP Rankings points during this stretch, cementing his position at No. 3 and moving him closer to catching Nadal at No. 2.
The always vocal Parisian fans showed their appreciation at having the chance to watch Federer for the first time since 2015, showering him with even more adoration than he typically received over the years on Court Philippe-Chatrier. The love from the crowd made the 20-time Grand Slam champion hint that his return to clay will become a staple in his final years on tour.
“I thought it was a great tournament. I really enjoyed it. Crowd support couldn't have been better. Maybe one of the best ever in my entire 20-year career that I have been on tour at a Grand Slam,” said Federer. “They were always there for me, supporting me in practice, at the matches, on the grounds whenever I came and showed up. They were always happy to see me. So that was nice.
“I think I surprised myself maybe with how deep I got in this tournament and how well I actually was able to play throughout. Next year, just like with any other tournament, I don't know. We'll see what happens. But I definitely enjoyed the clay-court season and [Roland Garros], so that would help the chances to return to the clay. It's not like it's been a shocker. So from that standpoint, it's okay.”