Following the first Masters 1000 quarter-final in Miami 2001, Roger Federer notched another one a couple of weeks later in Monte Carlo, competing in the Principality for the third time. The young Swiss had failed to win a match in Monte Carlo in 1999 and 2000, changing that 19 years ago with a 6-4, 6-3 triumph over a former Roland Garros champion Michael Chang in an hour and 25 minutes.
Roger fended off ten out of 13 break chances and gained five breaks from ten opportunities, trailing 3-1 40-30 in the opener before turning the tables around and winning four straight points on the return at 5-4 to claim the opener and gain momentum.
The Swiss controlled the pace in set number two and sealed the deal with a forehand drive&volley winner in the ninth game to move into the second round and earn the first Masters 1000 victory on clay. "Yes, that's correct; this was my first victory in Monte Carlo from the third attempt.
My results are way better on other surfaces but my best Grand Slam finish came at the French Open last year. I believe I'm a good clay-courter; I'm not that worried about my career on clay. The opening set was a tough one for me.
There was a lot of fighting because I really didn't feel good on the court; it's excellent to win matches like this on clay. I'm thrilled to be through to the second round because I can gain confidence very quickly on this surface, especially after a winning start.
During winters, I used to practice on indoor clay in a balloon and, overall, I played a lot on the slowest surface. I don't know why my clay-court career started so badly. I went to the Swiss National Tennis Center at the age of 14 and started playing on a fast indoor court, maybe then.
The season has started well with that title in Milan and the Davis Cup victory over the USA. I kept playing well like over the months, that's why I won my February award for the best player. Last year, I finished pretty well on clay, losing twice to Corretja at Roland Garros and Gstaad.
I felt I was playing better and better and this year I want to embrace consistency at the events before Roland Garros. The grass season was a little bit disappointing for me last year, I have to fix that as well. After winning the junior Wimbledon, I really think I can play well on grass.
I still have to improve my serve and volley game, then I should be fine. In the summer, I really want to continue playing well like I did at the beginning of the year. The more matches you play, the more experience you get; for me, this year really started off well.
The Hopman Cup was also critical, playing alongside Martina, seeing how she is doing and how she's acting. I felt like I couldn't finish the point at the beginning of the match today; I was probably not playing the right way and too flat.
I should have played maybe more the angles and made him run, finishing the points at the net as well. That started to come at the end of the first and beginning of the second; I was enjoying the match and you could see it.
I was playing drop shots, which I don't do too often, trying different things on the court while trying to not let the match slip away. In Neuchatel, I hit the ball well. Last year I prepared differently, staying in Miami and playing the final on clay.
After that, I lost too tight matches in Monte Carlo and Rome that I could have won. Let's say that I have to change my game on clay, it's clear. It's a good point that I'm able to slide and move like I want. I also put more effort into my shots and stay more on the baseline.
My serve in practice wasn't going very well; I have to concentrate on this because it's not so easy to make winners on this surface. I think I should be more consistent because I made too many easy errors; I have to improve that."