In Brief

Roger Federer focused on clay court return not retirement

The 20-time grand slam champion is set to play his first French Open since 2015

Roger Federer has quashed the rumours that the reason he is returning to play on clay in 2019 is because this season could be his last in professional tennis.

Having not played on clay since 2016, the Swiss world No.7 confirmed last month that he is preparing to appear at the French Open tennis grand slam for the first time since 2015.

Federer’s surprise decision “took the tennis world off guard”, News.com.au reports, and in turn sparked a conspiracy theory that the 20-time grand slam champion wants a “last crack” at winning Roland-Garros before retiring. His single French Open title came in 2009.

When asked about the theory that retirement plans could be behind his return to clay the 37-year-old said: “No, it’s not. I thought of it, in isolation, do I want to play the clay or not? The answer was yes.

“This doesn’t mean this is my last clay-court season, whatever, or I had to play one more time before I retired. That was not the thinking.”

In recent seasons Federer has decided against playing on clay because of injuries and scheduling, but he says the timing feels right to hit the red dirt again.

“All I knew is after missing it for two to three years basically, my body was ready, I was ready, my schedule with the family, my schedule with the team was ready to do it again,” he said. “This is when I opted to say, ‘it will be nice’.

“That’s not the reason why I’m putting the clay back on. It was purely based on I would just like to play. We can always read just the schedule accordingly depending how I play the clay. The calendar is always flexible.

“Instead of taking a big chunk off, I’d rather stay in the rhythm and actually enjoy myself on the clay.”

He added: “It’s going to be challenging, no doubt about it. I have to take baby steps in the beginning to some extent, but that’s okay.

“I think after not playing for two years, also missing the French [Open] three years ago because of injury, I think the team understood that I was in the mood to do it again.

“I did grow up on clay, after all. I felt like my body is strong enough now again to do the surface changes from hard to clay to grass to hard again. In the past I felt different. I felt like it would be nice to go from hard to grass to hard, stay on faster surfaces.”

The ATP clay court events start in April and the 2019 French Open grand slam takes place at Roland-Garros from 26 May to 9 June.

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