Roger Federer’s Chances at the French Open

Roger Federer in action on the clay ahead of the ATP Geneva Open.
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After a much-hyped return on the ATP tour, 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer is off to a dismal start to the season. He lost to Nikoloz Basilashvili in the quarterfinals of the ATP 250 Qatar Open played on Hard courts last March. He then chose to skip the Dubai Open and get back to practice before heading to Geneva to play the ATP Geneva where he was seeded No.1, in the absence of the likes of Daniil Medvedev, Dominic Thiem, and Alexander Zverev. The ATP tour 250 event was the best bet for Federer on clay, with the King of clay, Rafael Nadal, busy competing at the Masters 1000 events. However, the Swiss maestro went down yet again, this time to the in-form Pablo Andujar of Spain in the round of 16, in what turned out to be a thrilling 3-set encounter. Andujar would then face Swiss teenager Dominic Stricker in the quarterfinals. Nonetheless, Federer fans might find solace in knowing that neither of the losses was demoralizing.

Roger Federer’s Chances at the French Open

Although things may not have worked the way he would have wanted to, Federer is raring to go, with the grass season not far from taking off. He has his eyes set on the ultimate prize–Wimbledon, where he has tasted success unlike anyone else, and would be more than happy to get lucky for the ninth time.

Roger Federer has sat out since February 2020 due to knee and back injuries. He went under the knife twice last year for his right knee. Despite being out of action for a little more than a year, he was confident coming from the practice sessions early this year. “I might surprise myself. I actually already have done in practice the past three weeks. I was surprised with how well it actually did go. But we know matches are a different animal, so right now I just take it day by day. I am happy I am back on the Tour again,” Federer said back in March.

The French Open is a different game altogether. Making the last four at Roland Garros is considered the biggest challenge in tennis. Although Novak Djokovic, Federer, and Stan Wawrinka have all managed to win the title once each on the back of their attacking game, those wins were mere exceptions. The fact that Roland Garros is Rafael Nadal’s second home doesn’t help Federer’s chances either, especially given that Nadal is playing the best tennis of his career. The greatest of all time on clay, Rafael Nadal, who seldom drops a set at Roland Garros, will be seen guarding the coveted crown with all his might. He is also charged up from the recent record-extending win at the Italian Open. We all know that the “Big 3” are at the center of the agonizing GOAT debate, with Nadal and Federer tied at 20 majors each, and Djokovic close behind at 18.

The Swiss maestro himself doesn’t seem to fancy his chances much. However, he would certainly want to go as far as possible at Roland Garros before heading to the Halle field in mid June to begin the grass season. He is serving strong as ever and his feet look good too. As long as he doesn’t commit too many unforced errors, especially off the one-handed backhand,  and he is on the top of his razor-sharp serve, he has the potential to see off some of the Top 30 seeds.

The draw will matter

The draw at the French Open should have a bearing on Federer’s prospects, more so if he reaches the last eight. He is likely to enter the draw in Paris seeded eighth. If he is placed in Nadal’s half, who is the undeniable favorite, he might have to face Nadal in the quarterfinals if he makes it that far. What is appalling about this scenario is that Djokovic could be housed in the same half as Nadal, and that means Federer would have to face him if he does reach the last four against all odds. In the other less brutal scenario, he may well thank his stars. That said, the likes of Dominic Thiem, who is a two-time finalist, and Stefanos Tsitsipas are not going to make things any easy for him. Same with the Russian duo of Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev.

The tennis legend has nothing to lose when he steps on the courts at Roland Garros. The question really is about Roger Federer’s survival in the first four rounds. Blatantly put, the odds of him making the quarters are high enough to warrant a close watch on him in the early rounds.

Main Photo from Getty.