Hey guys, the countdown timer until we see Federer play again is slowly but surely getting closer to zero so I thought I'd start some early discussions and take a look at what to expect from the man himself throughout the European clay court swing.
I was planning on waiting till closer to Madrid starting, but seen as though Roger won't be playing any competitive tennis beforehand then its unlikely my predictions will change so I figure we may as well get some early discussions going, not time like the present huh.
Can you believe it's almost 4 weeks since we last saw Fed on court in Indian Wells where he was comprehensively beaten by Nadal?
As we know he was suffering physically and (perhaps) mentally in that match so we have quite a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to the Clay Court season. Even more so when you consider that by the time he takes to the court again it will have been around 8 weeks since he last played a competitive match.
Will he be fresh? Will the back injury still be lingering? Let's take a look…
Madrid Masters – Can the Fedal Strangehold Continue?
Madrid has been a very happy hunting ground for Roger both when it was an indoor hard tournament and on clay. He's won it 3 times (twice on clay) and played in 5 finals so he clearly enjoys the event.
It's also been pretty good to Nadal too as he's taken down the trophy twice and since the tournament turned to clay in 2009 either Nadal or Federer have featured in all 4 of the finals.
That just shows the dominance of those two guys over the last decade really. The question now is though Can the Fedal stranglehold continue in Madrid or will we be watching another Djokovic vs. Murray slug fest?
To be honest I think this year there's more chance of Nadal taking the title than Federer successfully defending it. Nadal looks back to his old self after 6 months out so will definitely be aiming to sweep the clay court season like he usually does. I think we'll see Nadal in the final and potentially someone like David Ferrer taking him on.
The blue clay has of course been scrapped too, which I don't think makes much difference for how Roger will perform but it may aid the likes of Djokovic & Nadal as they don't have to contend with the mental block they both got last year when playing on it.
If Roger stays at 3 and Nadal stays at 5 in the rankings then there's also the possibility of another Fedal quarter final like we saw in Indian Wells. That's not necessarily a bad thing as Madrid is probably the best chance Roger has of beating Nadal on clay due to the altitude making the balls fly through the air quicker.
Whether he's ready to do that after an 8 week break remains to be seen though. Especially since Superman Nadal will likely be coming in off the back of a resounding 9th straight victory at the Monte Carlo Masters and an 8th title in Barcelona. But if it were to happen (and stranger things have) then it'd be a morale boosting victory and would prevent Pigeon status in the H2H which currently stands at 19-10 in Dulls favour.
Regardless of a Fedal Quarter final or successfully defending his title I think it will be a fairly successful tournament for Roger as he tends to like playing at La Caja Mágica, a nice draw will help for sure but I think it's important he just wins a couple of matches and can play without any sort of physical hindrance.
As fans we head into this one with a little trepidation as it's the first time he's testing out the back since Indian Wells and there weren't many positives to take from Rotterdam or Dubai either so really it's a benchmark tournament – play well and we will be expectant for a positive run at the French, crash and burn like his 3 tournaments previous and we will be left wondering what the hell has happened to his game and whether or not he can sort it out.
We have nothing to go on really, you're only as good as your last match which was pretty poor by Federer's standards. We know he's been practicing on clay in Switzerland but that doesn't give us any indicators of his level so we just have to wait and see how he performs in his first match back. Either way I'm looking forward watching.
My Prediction for Federer: Semi Final
Rome Masters – Can Federer Break his Duck?
Rome is the polar opposite of Madrid for Roger and he's never managed to take down the title, losing in the final twice, one vs. Nadal (of course, who else) in an epic 5 setter in 2006 and again 3 years previously to another Spaniard Felix Mantilla.
Other than that some of Roger's poorest matches have come in Rome; let's look at his past performances since he last made the final in 2006:
- 2012 – Lost to Djokovic in the Semi Final
- 2011 – Lost to Gasquet in the 3rd Round
- 2010 – Lost to Gulbis in the 2nd Round
- 2009 – Lost to Djokovic in the Semi Final
- 2008 – Lost to Stepanek in the Quarter Final
- 2007 – Lost to Volandri (a wildcard) in the 3rd Round
As you can see he's lost to some real clowns there, whether it's the slow surface or the fact he has one eye on the French Open and wants to save himself who knows but losing to Gascoke, Mugbis, Stepanek and Volandri is a poor record.
The one positive is that Fed has occasionally come up with some good matches there too, the 2006 final against Dull was a really good match that he coulda woulda shoulda won, and he also destroyed Canas in 2008 when he had a losing record to the Argentine at the time. So whilst he does stink up the joint more of than not it's not beyond him to play well at the Italian Open, just rare.
Again it's another of Nadal's favourite events and he's won it 6 times in the last 8 years. I imagine he will make the final again too. As for who he will face I think it's about time Murray put in a shift on the clay courts and it's high time we saw those 2 face off again.
Murray is still staking his claim as a tennis heavyweight, I'd say he's close to cementing his place but he's always been owned by Nadal when it counts so it will be interesting to see if he can take his new found forehand and cause Nadal some problems with it. That's possibly the one matchup I'm looking forward to seeing that doesn't involve Fed.
As for Roger it's tough to see him winning this event when he hasn't managed it before, it's not impossible and he's definitely in with a shout if he plays well but it will take a huge effort to beat Nadal and Djokovic on this type of surface.
My Prediction for Federer: Quarter Final
The Madrid Masters starts on the Sunday the 5th of May, so I figure Roger will be in action on around the 7th or 8th which makes it around 30 days till he next plays. Still quite a lengthy wait when you think about it but there's nothing we can do about that.
Monte Carlo and Barcelona are up before that so we'll get an indication of how Djokovic (who got injured in the Davis Cup with a twisted ankle), Nadal, Murray and Ferrer are playing on the dirt before anyone else.
What are your expectations for Roger's clay court Masters 1000 events? How bad is the Djokovic injury? (Nothing the CVAC won't sort :P) and will Nadal sweep the clay court season? Let me know in the comments.