Despite growing up on clay, Roger Federer has always preferred faster surfaces with lower bounce. Still, the Swiss reached his first Major quarter-final on clay at Roland Garros in 2001 and won the first Masters 1000 title on the slowest surface next May, beating Marat Safin in Hamburg to crack the top-10 for the first time.
A year later, Federer earned the Tour leading 26 victories before the clay swing, skipping Monte Carlo and entering Munich with high hopes. Roger played on a high level in Bavaria and defeated all five rivals in under five hours to earn the seventh ATP trophy and gain momentum ahead of the Masters 1000 event in Rome.
Not playing that well in the Italian capital before, Roger was on a roll that week at Foro Italico and ousted Paul-Henri Mathieu, Mariano Zabaleta and world no. 19 Tommy Robredo to rattle off 16 straight sets on clay and advance into the quarter-final.
Robredo should have been a fierce rival to pass, but Federer took him down 6-1, 6-1 in short 49 minutes, dominating both serve and return to stay on the title course. Roger lost nine points in seven service games and converted almost every break opportunity to control the pace and cross the finish line when Tommy netted a forehand in the second set's seventh game.
Roger Federer reached the Rome Masters quarter-final in 2003.
"I don't know why I'm playing so good on clay out of a sudden. It's a little bit surprising, but on the other hand, it's not, as I have been playing on clay for my entire life.
I feel very natural on it, with footwork and everything. Still, to beat such good players in ten days or so, it's an excellent result that makes me very happy. I'm mentally strong now, and there's nothing wrong with my game; it's a nice feeling to have.
If I have to take a shot from my opponents, I would love to have those forehand drop shots that the Spanish players use so effectively. I don't have the confidence to go with those shots, but it would be good to mix the game a bit," Roger Federer said.