Unlike the regular players from the top of men's tennis, world no. 3 and 2009 Roland Garros champion Roger Federer skipped the action on clay in 2017 and 2018, not playing on dirt since that loss to Dominic Thiem in Rome 2016.
The 37-year-old Swiss decided to change that this spring, announcing back in December he would compete on clay and making a return two weeks ago in Madrid. Roger found the chemistry on the slowest surface right from the start, defeating Richard Gasquet and saving two match points against Gael Monfils to reach the quarters.
With an aggressive approach and determination to show his skills on dirt for the first time in three years, Federer had two match points against Barcelona champion Dominic Thiem who prevailed in the end to halt Roger's progress.
On Saturday, Federer decided he would play in Rome as well, delivering two wins on Thursday (saving two match points against Borna Coric) before withdrawing before the quarter-final clash with Stefanos Tsitsipas due to a leg injury.
Roger is now in Paris, preparing for the second Grand Slam of the season and his first Roland Garros in four years, hitting the Philippe Chatrier court with Diego Schwartzman and waiting for the main action to start on Sunday.
Making his debut in Paris 20 years ago at the age of 17, Roger reached the fourth round next year and the quarters in 2001, his first at Majors. After three early exits, Federer was the semi-finalist in 2005 and the beaten finalist in between 2006-08, losing all four matches to Rafael Nadal before finally lifting the elusive crown in 2009 when he ousted Robin Soderling in the title match.
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic proved to be too good in the latter stages in 2011 and 2012, with the last notable result coming in 2015 when Stan Wawrinka toppled Roger in three sets, in what was Federer's final match in Paris before this year.
If he manages to get at 100% physically, Roger should be among the contenders for a good result at Roland Garros despite this absence, hoping to improve his tally of 65 wins at clay Major and survive in the draw as long as possible.