Roger Federer has confirmed that he will skip the French Open this year to focus on the upcoming grass court and hard court events at Wimbledon and the US Open. It is the first time since turning professional in 1998 that the Swiss ace will skip the entire clay court swing of the season.
The 35-year-old has made his best start to a season since 2006, winning three – Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami Masters – of the four tournaments he has played. He is on a 19-1 win-loss run this season, with his only loss coming in the second round of the Dubai Tennis Championships against unknown Russian Evgeny Donskoy.
Federer, who is coming back from a six-month spell on the sidelines due to a knee injury, made it clear that remaining fit throughout the season and not chasing the top ranking was his main priority. He revealed that he will be playing fewer tournaments than in the past and thus took the decision to skip all four clay court tournaments leading up to Roland Garros after his win in Miami.
The 18-time men's singles Grand Slam champion initially revealed that he was planning to make an appearance at the French Open but after a few days of practice in Switzerland on clay, Federer along with his team decided that it was best if he skipped the second major tournament of the year and focus on the grass and hard court season.
"Regrettably, I've decided not to participate in the French Open. I've been working really hard, both on and off the court, during the last month but in order to try and play on the ATP World Tour for many years to come, I feel it's best to skip the clay court season this year and prepare for the grass and hard court seasons," Federer communicated via his official site.
"The start to the year has been magical for me but I need to recognise that scheduling will be the key to my longevity moving forward. Thus, my team and I concluded today that playing just one event on clay was not in the best interest of my tennis and physical preparation for the remainder of the season.
"I will miss the French fans, who have always been so supportive and I look forward to seeing them at Roland Garros next year," the Swiss tennis star added.
Federer's long-time coach Severin Luthi dismissed suggestions that the former world number one will not play on clay again after confirming that he will return to play at Roland Garros and other clay court events in the future.
"I'm very confident that Roger will play the French Open again," Lüthi said in a telephone interview from Switzerland on Monday, as quoted by the New York Times. "He can play a different schedule next year. It's not because he's not playing the French this year that he's done with it. It's not because he is not playing on clay this year that he won't be playing on it more again in the years ahead."
Federer has won the French Open just once, and with Rafael Nadal back to his imperious best on clay the Swiss realistically had little chance of winning the event again. His best results have historically come on the grass of SW19 and the US Open's hardcourts, so his announcement has not come as a huge surprise, especially as the physically demanding French finishes on June 11, just four weeks before the start of Wimbledon.