World no. 3 Roger Federer has returned to clay for the first time in three years, entering Madrid and Rome before heading to Paris for the first Roland Garros appearance since 2015. No one could have predicted Roger's form or level of tennis after such a long break from the slowest surface but he acted like on the court like there was no break at all, reaching the quarter-final in Madrid after wins over Richard Gasquet and Gael Monfils.
Competing for the first time this season, Gasquet was no match for Roger and the Swiss had to work much harder against Monfils, racing towards the opening set in less than 20 minutes before prevailing 6-0, 4-6, 7-6 after saving two match points.
Aggressive in his approach and determined to keep the rallies on his racquet on the fast court at Caja Magica, Roger was a point away defeating one of the best clay-courters in the world Dominic Thiem in the quarters, wasting two match points in the second set tie break before losing 3-6, 7-6, 6-4.
Flying back home to Switzerland, Roger announced he would play in Rome as well, returning to the Italian capital for the first time in three years and enjoying his first couple of days in Italy as every time since he was a junior.
Roger trained with Andreas Seppi and the 17-year-old Jannik Sinner, preparing for his second round match against Joao Sousa and hoping to challenge the favorites and maybe advance into the fifth Rome final, losing the previous four in 2003, 2006, 2013 and 2015.
"The conditions will be much slower here in comparison to Madrid, I will probably have to work with more drop shots and be patient but I'm looking forward to playing under those conditions. I don‘t like to say I‘m just here to prepare Paris, I‘m here for the fans, the tournament and myself, Rome is probably my no.
1 city to visit because of the food and everything. There's going to be good crowds hopefully, good atmosphere, I'm thrilled to be here. I'm pumped up to play well, my excitement couldn't be bigger. The moment I landed in Rome yesterday, I was so happy to be here.
I love this city. Always enjoyed playing in Italy. It's probably the country I've played the most junior tennis in. Coming down from Switzerland to the clay courts was always a logical junior trip. They have very strong junior tournaments here. I love being here, especially in this city as well."