Roland Garros just cannot come soon enough. Though I have nothing against Rafa, the tennis on display right now is anything but entertaining to me. Apart from a few sporadic moments, its largely been (for lack of a better word) dull.
Roger to skip Roland Garros; will focus on the grass & hardcourt 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. The start to the year has been magical for me but I need to recognize 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.
Interesting insight what was going on in Federers head (source: ESPN online)
Ah, s---, it's all happening again."
Roger Federer remembers the moment, the word, with painful clarity. "Again."
He was down 3-1 in the fifth set of the 2017 Australian Open final, losing to Rafael Nadal, his career kryptonite. Nadal, who was 6-0 against Federer in grand slams since 2008, pounded forehands at him. Federer felt his legs go heavy. Then heavier. He started talking to himself. "I recall saying, 'You have to try to break now, pal, because later on he is going to stay in the lead and have the break, and then too much luck is involved to turn the whole thing around.'"
More than any player in the modern era, Roger Federer has made the game look easy. Federer, the graceful. Federer, the perfect. Federer, the ideal tennis player. It's what makes him so intoxicating to watch. It's what inspires a near literal traveling church of Roger Federer faithful at ATP events. But what looks easy comes with a soundtrack, an internal monologue, and in that monologue, the greatest male tennis player of all time will sometimes grind hard, full of doubt and pressure and frustration, wrestling with history and ambition, fearful of coming up short.
"Oh, s---, he's got me at the finish line," Federer said to himself.
He struggled to calm down. He kept talking, tried to stay positive: "I told myself, 'I've done very little wrong. I've played committed. I've played bigger with my backhand than I ever have against Rafa. I've hit a lot of backhand winners.'"
He was resetting, centering himself in the middle of a free fall. And somewhere in the conversation between Federer and Federer he found the calm he was seeking. This was an unlikely final to be in, coming off a left knee injury at age 35, and the boisterous crowd was with him. He fed on its energy. He remembers it now as some combination of Zen and excitement. "A different mindset," he says. Instead of getting shaky, he got energized. Instead of reproducing an old pattern, he found something new. "I had the best 20 minutes of my life, maybe, on the tennis court," he says. "I just zoned in and just went ..." He lifts his right hand and mimics a jet taking off. It climbs higher and higher, and then it flies away.
Federer is sitting at a long, lacquered table in a private dining room at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Seattle. He is tanned and wears a black Nike top and black Nike sweats. He sits up in his chair, unspooling the moment in Melbourne, excited at the memory of it. "What I was telling myself is 'Play free,'" he says. "'Don't feel like you're in a straitjacket. Feel like you have nothing to lose, maybe for one of the first times.'"
With Federer serving for the match, Nadal made one last charge, earning two break points and threatening to take back momentum. Federer kept talking to himself, urging himself on: "Just keep not thinking too much about the what-ifs ... the pressure, the moment. I know it's huge, we all know it's huge, but just try to shake it off. Don't freeze up. Fight, but don't try too hard and want it too much."
He looks out the hotel-room window toward Puget Sound. The sky is clear and blue. "Just like Switzerland," he says. Snow-covered mountains rise in the distance. The view is scarred by an unsightly gray power plant. He looks past it to the water and the white peaks.