Rome - Roger Federer insisted Monday his focus at this week's Italian Open
was on getting more match practice on clay ahead of the French Open in
two weeks time.
The 20-time Grand Slam winner has not played on the red clay in the
Foro Italico since his third round exit in 2016 having finished
runner-up the previous year for the fourth time, losing to Novak
Djokovic in the final.
"Regardless of what happens here, I just think it's good for me to
play matches at this stage," said world number three Federer before his
first match on Wednesday.
He has a first-round bye as the number three seed, and will begin his
tournament against Portugal's Joao Sousa, who battled past American
Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/4) to reach the second round.
The 37-year-old's performance in the Madrid Open last week has
boosted his hopes of winning the French Open, a decade after his only
He fell in the quarter-finals on Friday to Dominic Thiem, but twice
held match point and for a set and a half was dominant against a player
considered among the favourites for Roland Garros after Rafael Nadal and
"I think I was playing well in Madrid, so I just said, again, 'Let's come to Rome, a city I like so much as well'.
"Madrid is a tough place to play. I felt like playing somewhat maybe more sea level conditions would be good for me.
"There would be excitement, more excitement than me coming to a practice court in Switzerland.
"I think this week, then next week in Paris, it's going to be interesting to see how I play the points, how I do it all."
His arrival in the Italian capital has been a boost for organisers
who doubled ticket prices after it was announced he would be playing.
"That's obviously disappointing to hear," said Federer.
"They made it in a way like they rewarded the fans who bought tickets earlier, which is sort of strange.
"Look, I just really hope it doesn't take away the fact I'm really happy to be here.
"There's going to be good crowds hopefully, good atmosphere.
"I'm pumped up to play well. I mean, my excitement couldn't be bigger."
Federer is in the same
half of the draw as eight-time Rome winner Nadal, who is looking for his
first clay title this season before his French Open title defence.
"I have other problems first getting there," said Federer, who could meet the Spaniard in the semi-finals.
A potential quarter-final awaits against either Stefanos Tsitsipas,
the eighth seed, who beat Nadal in the Madrid semi-finals, or Italian
10th seed Fabio Fognini, the Monte Carlo winner.
"I thought Stefanos was very impressive against him (Nadal) last week," continued Federer.
"I think it's going to be a good season. It's going to be interesting
to see who is going to make the World Tour Finals, especially if so
many guys have won especially big titles, like Fabio in Monaco.
"There is a bit of a new wave coming through with the one-handed backhand that can counter some of Rafa's spins and lefty play.
"But, again, this is maybe also just a moment in time. We'll see what happens for the rest of the year.
"It's announcing to be a very exciting season, even a more
complicated one for the top guys next year, I believe, because this is
the year where they truly are breaking through, truly are gaining a lot
"Especially for the clay-courters."
Latest results from the ATP and WTA Italian Open tournaments in Rome on Tuesday (x denotes seeding):
Alize Cornet (FRA) bt Aryna Sabalenka (BLR x9) 6-1, 6-4
Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) bt Dayana Yastremska (UKR) 6-4, 1-6, 6-3
Darya Kasatkina (RUS) bt Irina Begu (ROU) 6-2, 7-6 (7/5)
Danielle Collins (USA) bt Caroline Wozniacki (DEN x11) 7-6 (7/5), 0-0 retired
Maria Sakkari (GRE) bt Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 6-1, 7-5
Taylor Fritz (USA) bt Guido Pella (ARG) 6-3, 6-4
Radu Albot (MDA) bt Benoit Paire (FRA) 6-3, 6-2