ATP Masters 1000Mutua Madrid OpenRoger Federer

Madrid Open Draw 2019: Federer’s Long Awaited Return To Clay

The Swiss will start his tournament against Richard Gasquet

Roger Federer is back on the red stuff for the first time since 2016 and the Swiss maestro is all set to compete at the Mutua Madrid Open which starts tomorrow. The draw has just taken place and you can see his projected opponents below.

Roger Federer's Projected Opponents

  • Round 1: Bye
  • Round 2: Richard Gasquet
  • Round 3: Gael Monfils / David Goffin
  • Quarter Final: Dominic Thiem
  • Semi-Final: Novak Djokovic
  • Final: Rafael Nadal

Full printable .PDF draw

Thoughts on the Draw

federer clay comeback

So Roger's long-awaited return to the clay is finally here and he'll start his competitive return against Richard Gasquet who defeated Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in his first-round match.

It's going to be very interesting to see how Roger plays as it's been 3 years since he last competed on the dirt and even then it was hampered by a not fully recovered knee injury so it's essentially 4 years since he factored on the surface.

The Swiss has been practising on clay in Switzerland since April 15th, and had his first practice at the Caja Magica on Friday so he's certainly got a few hours under his belt. Ultimately though we have no idea how the practice has gone.

In fact, the only thing I've seen is Paganini revealing Roger approached it with a lot of enthusiasm and the training routine is much different to usual due to the need for strength in the quads and a lot of focus on injury prevention.

Our work lasts until the 5th of May. So it's too early to say that. It is only when the results are good. But we started well. It's nice to see Roger's anticipation of the clay. He started the training like a child looking forward to the first school trip – a madness. Feeling this enthusiasm has a big impact on the quality of the training. Pierre Paganini

Anyway, onto the draw you have Gasquet, who hasn't played this season after undergoing a hernia operation in January. The Frenchman beat the least Spanish looking Spaniard of all time, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. (Russian mother, Swedish father explains that one) in the first round.


With this being Gasquet's first tournament back it's hard to predict whether he can perform at a high level. It was a fairly close match against Fokina at 7-5 7-6(5) and he has very little recovery time so I'm not convinced he can offer that much. He didn't look in peak condition either so I like Fed's chances given that and the H2H.

Assuming he gets through that then Round 3 will likely be Monfils, Goffin or Fucsovics. Monfils lost to Fokina in Estoril, Goffin plays Tsitsipas in the semi-final there later today and Fucsovics lost in the Quarter Finals in Munich to Cecchinato. 

Picking a winner out of those guys is tricky as none of them have a history of doing that well in Madrid. Monfils has a couple of quarterfinals to his name so perhaps he's the favourite to come through. That will be a tough test for Roger as Gael has always been a tricky matchup over the years.


For the quarterfinal, newly crowned Barcelona champion Dominic Thiem is the top seed and he's arguably the favourite for the title based on current form and the fact he's made the last two finals at the Caja Magica. Hard to see Roger defeating Thiem on his favourite surface and statistically best Masters 1000 tournament should they meet but you never know.

The semifinals then sees Djokovic as the top seed but since Australia, he's not really figured at the business end of tournaments so he too is a bit of an unknown quantity. Two-time winner but is he putting all his eggs in the Grand Slam basket these days?

Nadal is in the other half of the draw so is the top seed and will be looking for his sixth Madrid title. He's yet to win a title on clay this year which a rarity and he's not looked in vintage form so far losing to Fognini and Thiem in Monte Carlo and Barcelona respectively.

So predictions for Fed? No idea, it's all about baby steps considering it's been three years since he set foot on a clay court outside Switzerland. You can argue it's not exactly uncharted territory given he grew up playing on clay so if anyone can hit the ground running it's Fed and I'm looking forward to seeing how he gets on both here and at the French.

We'll certainly know a lot more once he's played his first match but it's Thiem who is my favourite for the title 🙂

Watch Federer's First Practice in Madrid

What are your thoughts on the draw? Any predictions? Let me know in the comments.


Huge fan of Roger Federer. I watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or writing about tennis I play regularly myself and have a keen interest in tactics, equipment and technicalties of the sport.

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    1. Quarter Final would be a pretty big achievement IMO. Not made the QF at Madrid since 2012. Although it’s his best M1000 by Win % which is pretty good!

    1. Its really hard not to see Thiem being a favourite to win in Madrid. I just want Roger to play freely and enjoy himself

    2. Yeah, Thiem right up there, back to back finals, he should be raring to go. In previous years he would have probably played Estoril or Munich too, going to be fresher here.

  1. Yeah tough one in come back but one at time… Let’s see how it fares out. As long as he isn’t getting any injury good.

    1. Thiem is a huge hurdle on clay. I would say beating him would be huge tbh not “at least”. At least winning his first match slightly more realistic 😀

  2. Wish they didn’t have the first round bye. Davidovich, as you say, could be a very tricky match to come into cold. On the other hand he could easily be feeling some letdown after his phenomenal week in Estoril, so depending on what shape Richie is in, maybe that’s not a matchup we get to see yet.

    As I’m sure I’ve said before, it’s an M1000, it’s supposed to be a challenging draw.

    Right now it’s all gravy. We get to see Fed play, & we have reason to believe we’re going to get to see him play with joy.

    1. Yeah could be interesting. I’ve not seen Davidovich play at all, doesn’t look like he has big shots from 30-second clip but I dunno his game.

      1. Lots of throwing himself around the court, crazy angles, droppers. Not sustainable long term without some less-exhausting steadying balance, but kid’s got passion.

  3. “Long waited” indeed! The end of lifeless tennis life without Fed.
    Roger’s looking great on red dart and apart from hearing that he’s beaten Hasse on practice match in Madrid, no idea how his level of clay game is at or the draw will turn out. At least his perfect record vs David Ferrer would certainly be safe unless both reach the final.
    “The least Spanish looking Spaniard”, hahaha yeah who is this ADF guy? Never heard of him until few days ago. Interested to see him play.

    1. Who is Hasse? No such name on men’s singles ranking. A lady?

      I have seen ADF yesterday and you can see him today NB 17.30 today, playing Cuevas.

      Yes, can be tricky as he was for Monfils. Running fast, hitting quite hard and lots of good dropshots, so the opponent must prepared for running.

    2. Yeah when I saw him I thought he was Scandinavian, then read his parents are Swedish and Russian. Although Wikpedia has them the wrong way around.

  4. I was waiting for this day like anything. Whatever might be his thought process for last two years he is too good a player to not participate in clay swing.

  5. Roger must play serve and dropshot (on serve) and dropshot return (on return (not inversely, hahaha …). If he needs to hit second shot in a rally, it must be winning slice 😉

  6. Yes ,okay(hopefully )till the quarters.However Thiem does have the fabulous one in his section of the draw.
    How lucky is Nadal that he does not have either Thiem or the Fog in his half.
    Goodness though,Jokers draw!Ceccinato,Kyrgios and Del Po.
    On his recent form will be lucky to make the quarters.

    1. Cecchinato has poor form (lost today to Garin in Munich and played really bad. Kyrgios is tough or is zero, you never know. Delpo is coming back from long injury pause. Not that tough Djoker’s draw. But yes, he is not in big form too

      I think Djokovic makes it to SF and loses there to Thiem/FF or RF.

      Fabio you never know too. He didn’t play since Monte Carlo after having some luck there.

      I don’t see him coming to play Thiem and if so and Thiem is in Barcelona form, Thiem wins.

      1. Ceccinato has beaten Djoker before and Garin is a pretty tough customer.
        Kygios always raises his game when one of the big three is across the net.
        Delpo unknown quantity but if fit will be dangerous.
        And Fabios win in Monte Carlo was most certainly not luck,he played brilliant tenis.

    2. Cecchinato is a tough customer on clay. Semifinals in Munich isn’t poor form…

      And I agree, Fognini can be unplayable at times when he’s feeling it. Deserved Monte Carlo 100%.

  7. I’m so worst at betting but if roger push at least semis, I will take one coffee a day for 2 weeks…lol…

    There’s no easy match for roger.. oh well at least he was stress free for expectations:)

    Go roger!!!:)

    1. And if he push a finals, no coffee for 2 weeks… i dont know if i can make it without caffeine..but its worth for roger:)

  8. Yes finally the ever graceful Roger back on clay…been so long. No one slide/glides as smooth as Roger except for Nadal. My expectations for this tourney…don’t see him past quarters but stranger things has happened of late.

  9. Smooth sliding/gliding on clay was 4-5 years ago. I have seen some sliding in a short video from Fed’s practice. This was not smooth. Looked stiff and was sliding very short and in almost upright position. Maybe security measure, which will need to be applied even more in real matches.
    Serve&Dropshot – for this he does not need sliding.

  10. He’ll do fine, clay is nothing special.
    What I’m worried about is the joke of a draw for Nadal.

    1. Yeah, clay is nothing special and that’s why Nadal-Federer career H2H on clay is 13:2 for Nadal, right?
      You are worried because of Nadal’s easy draw? Federer could meet Nadal first in final. Do you really think Federer reaches final in Madrid?

      Your imagination is the best joke 😉

      1. Show some respect you jerk !
        This is a Fed community not a Thiem blog and neither a place for part time Fed wannabe fans. Your contributions are of no added value for us, most of them are ignored – you still haven’t got that ?

      2. @DrEvil
        You are another joke, telling, everyone is ignoring my comments. You must be an exception here. Calling names is your expertise.

        1. I was not talking about Thiem, but about Fed on clay.
        2. Many of you (starting with Jonathan) have spoken about Thiem. What’s wrong, when I’m doing the same? Maybe you should tell Jon not to tell about Thiem being title favorite in Madrid and not expecting Fed to defeat him here. You can hardly distinguish between your dreams and facts.
        3. I’m not Fed’s “wannabe” fans and I don’t need your recommendation to feel a real Federer’s fan. I was probably his fan when you still used pampers.
        4. You speak “for us” – who has entitled you to speak for the community? Or you use pluralis majestatis and it simply means “you yourself”? Do you belong to Quenn’s family?
        5. If it’s not too much for you, show some respect to everyone. You may be critic on my opinions, but not on my person. This does not belong to the freedom about which Jon is so proud?
        6. Because this forum has no filter, so everyone can hide everyone, to not see his/her comments at all, I’m starting to use an internal filter for your nick (some others belong here too). My recommendation: do the same.

    2. I agree with you.These,on paper anyway,shall we say unchallenging draws are a bit beyond a joke
      now.Medvedev if he gets to Nadal might cause trouble,but Shapavalov etc will just get slaughtered.

      1. Maybe not Aliassime? And lert me tell this. It’s an habitus of Nadal to win most clay tournaments regularly. So almost every draw is a joke for him. If he gets some real contenders (Djokovic, Thiem), he gets them not before SF.

        What’s significance of this for Federer, who can meet him first in final?

        Do you expect Nadal to get Thiem in second round and Federer in third?

    3. I think the remark “clay is nothing special” was meaning that it’s not some far out surface that Federer is unable to play on…

      1. Apparently, you are one of the few who have some neurons working on, Jonathan.

      2. To play yes. To win and go deep – not now.

        Of course, generally it’s nothing special, like grass. but somehow we have a Wimbledon King and we have a Roland Garros King and incidentally it’s not the same person 😉

      3. Roger made 5 finals on RG. He is a very good clay player, possibly among the best ever, just not the best one.

      4. Rui I totally agree. I often try and make the point to people how many RG finals he made. Second to Nadal on clay really. Just in this day and age has to fight stars like Thiem. But in his day… He was an excellent clay courter.

  11. ADF just taken first set in Estoril. Worth watching, because the guy can beat Gasquet and be Fed’s first opponent.

      1. This was to be expected. He came from nowhere to reach the SF. He is a fighter not not prepared for such effort. This means, Roger play first Gasquet.

    1. Maybe Paganini will get paid millions to write a tell-all book about all the secrets of Roger.
      Thanks, interesting that he sees Fed getting energy from the interviews. A true extrovert. Introverts are drained by all the press etc.

    2. Tennis World is so poorly written 😆 and pure clickbait. But they do get the news out there quickly.

      I like how all the guys close to Fed never give much away to the press like Paganini. No worms or hangers-on that are allowed too close.

  12. Hadn’t even heard of Davidovich Fokina – APT website was misbehaving last week! First reaction was: Who? Second reaction was to wonder if there’s any ballet history in his background, given the name … An in-form youngster on first match back on clay could be tricky.

    1. Indeed,especially as I presume Fed hasn’t played him before.
      Still it is Madrid,fast clay,which seems like a bit of an oxymoron.
      Could be tricky but I think Fed will win.

    2. Yeah, I don’t think Fed will have seen any of Fokina, as far as I know, they haven’t practised together. I saw he was cramping a lot against Cheesy Cuevas, so might be coming into Madrid with heavy legs.

  13. Hey guys. Fed playing clay again is international news! How many players get practice sessions all over the web. Filming him walking into centre court. Crazy stuff.
    Seems to me, Djoker has the easiest draw to the quarters. Most of those players aren’t in form. As for Fed, I’ll hope for the quarters but wouldn’t it be great to see him and Ferrer in the final with either one winning. Anyway, I hope Ferrer has a good sendoff.

    1. Kygios is a bit of an anomaly though.
      He turns up,plays a couple of devestating matches and then goes away again,mentally and physically.
      But could make life very difficult for the Djoker early on.Perhaps.
      But then Djokovic will not be bothered if he loses.Allegedly.😎

      1. Royal Back of Andaluzia was helpess against Berrettini’s drop shots in Munich. Too bad for Matteo who had then to play the final later on the same day and lost to an in-form Garin. The final was very fast-paced from what I saw in the highlights.

  14. I’m just looking forward to see Fed on clay. Always thought he was such a
    good player to watch on that surface, crazy that his socks never seemed
    to get so dirty. Maybe sock watching will be worth the effort to see if
    he’s moving the same as before!! I know Dom T is the hot player at
    the moment but not too sure of back to back wins.

    1. Kind of the forgotten man on clay having not played it for a while, but he is easily one of the best clay courters of the last 15 years.

      1. Last 15 years – sure. Still today – probably not, just because of movement. You can adapt the game to the age in every aspect, but not in movement.

        The secret of covering the court when approaching the net is “agility”. On clay Fed must look for other solutions. With minimum of running. Serve&Dropshot 😉

      2. Of course not today, he hasn’t played on it in 3 years. I can name 20 players who would have a very good chance of beating him on clay.

        If we are going to put clay rankings on the same system as the whole year, he’s not even ranked. Wild card!

      3. I just hope he’ll have fun and perform his creative tennis (and of course hopefully win unexpected lots)

    1. Thanks FBRF! (Has his voice grown deeper – so now a bass-baryton?) I guess he may have enjoyed the clay-training – liking fun of variety and long missed challenges? Stimulating physical strength and mentally braining? Whatever happens, exciting to see how he’ll do. Hopefully in many matches next week, yes?

      1. Just interested that you quote someone saying that Clay is the hardest surface on the back.
        Of all the many injuries suffered by Nadal I don’t think he has ever mentioned his back.
        Or were you referring to Feds back specifically,which we know can creak occasionally🙂

      2. Specifically, Fed’s back. Clay meant to be the surface that can flare it up more than the others. Dunno why.

        For most, clay is seen as the easiest surface on the body

  15. @Jon
    Do you play mostly on clay or on hard? If regularly both, you would know the difference from own experience. Maybe you do?

    I’m always playing half y year on clay and the other half (cold season) on hard indoors.

    After winter I have always some problems with my back. After summer – with my knees.

    I think, with my age, I can say, all parts of my body are bad now 😉

    Clay is not the hardest but the most physically demanding surface, because rallies are longer and you must run a lot. Also you need to use more power in shots. So you are usually more tired after a match on clay, than after a match on hard or grass. (not sure about grass, never playd this surface).

    1. I play more on hard courts. But I’ve played on clay in Europe.

      Clay is easier on the body as it’s loose underfoot. Less jarring. Which is why Nadal’s hard court record in recent years is filled with withdrawals. As for why it’s been harder on Fed’s back, who knows, we don’t know the injury or problem. Maybe it’s not the surface itself but the colder weather in Europe during the clay swing.

      Clay is more about endurance, so yeah definitely the most physically demanding than the other surfaces. The grass is more about explosiveness and lots of short quick movements. Can’t take big swings at the ball.

      1. Thanks for good explaining. So Fed might have trained endurance and big swings – experimenting with that…?

      2. Like every surface, clay has two opposite features. I agree, it’s easier on the body because it absorbs shocks coming from hitting the court with the foot through sliding. On the other side, it’s more physically demanding.

        Agree also about grass.

        All this means, you cannot have one universal footwork for all surfaces. That’s why Roger’s game (short quick movements) is more effective on grass and hard.

        Yes, we don’t know much about the nature of Fed’s back problems. They have long history and maybe not much to do with tennis.

        Maybe I’m wrong, but my understanding is (whatever the reason), while Fed has outstanding footwork, he was always a bit stiff in the back, even if in vintage form and fitness and winning slams a.s.o.

        Extreme clay-courters, like Nadal are rather slouchy (not sure, if it’s the right word).

        Nadal’s knee problems come IMO not from clay, but from playing clay-game on other surfaces.

        Fed’s back stiffness seems to be located in the lower back, so he tends to behave an upright upper-body position and to avoid torsional movements of the upper-body (it’s only speculation, not diagnosis of course). And he jumps a lot and mostly does not follow the shot with his eyes (avoiding torsional movements of neck and nape?).

        Another one, who jumps a lot, is Thiem, but he seems not to have any back problem. and his movement has a lot of turning and twisting, which allows for involving the whole bode to produce fast and hard shots from tiny muscles and lightweight.

        And we should not forget – everyone is getting more and more stiff with the age.

        Hard surfaces are not recommended for oldies but this is not about competitive performance tennis.

      3. For me and my back, walking on pavement is far better. Gravel, loose dirt, grass, etc is a lot harder on my lower back.
        Hey, Jonathan, we are not in Miami (Kansas?) anymore.

  16. So Gasquet it is. Doesn’t look in great shape from what I saw and got pushed in both sets. Not a huge amount of recovery time for him.

      1. Really, yes. The youngster might have been a bit more tricky. But Gasquet has always fine moments, and the match might be quite entertaining to watch. Cannot wait

    1. Do you know, what was the reason for the pause?
      For me Gasquet was only a bit rusty, but Roger will be rusty too. Gasquet had all his shots and creativity. Yes, he was pushed, but this tells more about ADF than about Gasquet. Gasquet will play his second match and be a little bit less rusty and more confident than yesterday.

      If ADF was not after heavy effort in Estoril, he would maybe defeat Gasquet today and be dangerous. This guy plays unconventional but nice, aggressive and creative tennis.

      Maybe actually better, it is Gasquet. But Gasquet will know how to let Roger run.

      We still have no idea about Federer’s form and degree of adaptation to clay.

      In any caseas always a gentlemen’s affair with two good one-handers 🙂

      1. It’s in my post why he hasn’t played.

        Gasquet to me looked to be carrying a few excess pounds. For a guy not known for physical prowess, playing 2 tough sets on clay after 6 months out then playing a guy you are 17-2 against less than 24 hours later is a tough ask.

    1. Judging from his social media posts he’s been putting in the hours on the practice courts. Interesting to see if he can play 3 or 4 good matches in a row that’s what he’s lacked a bit since the comeback (other than Rotterdam) and of course some his tough draws haven’t helped.

      1. Yes,and the draws don’t get any easier.
        Next up the inform Pella who has just knocked out Medvedev,and then Nishikori.
        Don’t know how those two match up but it certainly won’t be a walk in the park.😊

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