LONDON — Roger Federer confirmed on Saturday that his decision to skip the entire clay season this spring will have served him well in his quest for an eighth Wimbledon title.
The Swiss third seed will begin his 2017 campaign as he faces Alexandr Dolgopolov of the Ukraine, whom he has beaten three times in the past seven years without a loss.
“I think at the end of the day that was the decision for me, to have a compromise really,” the 18-time grand slam champion said. “I gave myself the best chance for the grass, so I would never look back and have regrets once I came here.
“I was ready to play in Paris. I just didn’t feel ready to go yet, or to come back in Madrid or Rome.
“When I decided that with the team, I got on the clay, sort of a couple weeks before the French Open, even though I was happy on the clay for a couple days, I just felt like anything other than winning there feels like I’m not giving myself the best chance for Wimbledon.”
With perhaps the world’s best tennis career as part of his background, the 35-year-old has decided that dirt matches tend to interfere with his all-important annual grass preparation.
“I’ve won the French Open once. I’ll be fresh (for Wimbledon), that’s the positive. But negative is, I haven’t had any matches whatsoever,” he said.
“That’s when I felt within the team, we all felt the same way, that it’s better to save myself and give it all I have for the rest of the season, not just the grass court season, but looking beyond that, too, all the way to the American summer, staying on a fast court tennis sort of mindset.
“I never regretted it, even though it hurt, because it was the first time I pulled out of a slam actually feeling 100 per cent ready to go.”
Under the guidance of friend and former Croatian player Ivan Ljubicic, the Swiss is lining up for his Wimbledon assault.
“I’m just trying to have good energy in practise, short and sweet, just get it done. Tomorrow I’ll be off. Then sort of basically resting, just making sure I come in fresh into that first round with the right mindset,” he said.
“I don’t want to be at the mercy of my opponent. I want to take charge, play aggressive myself. So for that I need to be fast on my feet and quick in my mind. I just need enough rest so I can play enough inspired tennis.
“In practise itself, I’m just trying to play forward, serve and volleying some, making sure I don’t get stuck behind the baseline, just making shots.”
The player who won his last Wimbledon five years ago and spun off five straight trophies at the All England club from 2003 to 2007, paused to reflect that only four players have lifted the trophy in recent years – himself, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
“It’s been very dominant by a few players here at Wimbledon, and in many of the other slams, too. European players have been in full force in I think the last hundred Masters 1000s, slams, Olympics, and also World Tour Finals,” Federer said.
“That’s surprising. It’s like that, but it can change tomorrow very quickly,” he said.