Competing in his fourth Masters 1000 event, an 18-year-old Roger Federer suffered a loss in the opening round of the Monte Carlo Masters in April 2000. Jiri Novak took down the young Swiss 6-1, 2-6, 7-5 in harsh rainy conditions, making both players struggle to find their best shots.
Two months earlier, Roger was the finalist in Marseille and the quarter-finalist in London on fast indoor surfaces, mastering them nicely but still seeking his A-game on clay after losing in the Monte Carlo opening round for the second straight year.
Unable to find the range in the opening set, Federer sprayed too many errors before changing the racquet in the second to settle into a fine rhythm. The young Swiss stayed in touch until the deciding set's closing stages before Novak prevailed with a late break after an hour and 46 minutes, leaving Roger on one Masters 1000 victory.
Unlike the previous season, Federer was eager to embrace more clay-court events in 2000, revealing a busy schedule and hoping to improve his movement and overall performance on the slowest surface.
Roger Federer spoke about his clay-court game after losing in Monte Carlo 2000.
"After Miami, I went to Houston, played an exhibition event on clay and practiced for a week and a half.
Then I traveled back to Europe, training in Nice with the young Swiss team before heading to Monte Carlo. The conditions were harsh, but you had to accept them on clay. It was difficult for me, and I did not have many opportunities to play my usual game.
I have absolutely no idea which shots I missed; I must work on patience to play on a higher level on clay. Sometimes I'm surprised by the mistakes I make; sometimes, I hit two errors in a row on easy shots, which is not common in my game.
This year I'm playing more events on clay than in the previous one when I only entered three. I know I can play well on clay, but I have to improve the physical part of my game and move better. The interruption worked in my favor a bit, giving me time to think about what I did wrong up to that point.
I sent two racquets to be strung with one extra kilogram and started to hit better afterward, feeling more comfortable on the court. I often lose tight matches in the deciding set, but the improvements will come with confidence and more tournaments. After Monte Carlo, I will play Barcelona, Rome, Hamburg, Sant-Polten and Roland Garros," Roger Federer said.