We’ve barely wrapped up Barcelona and news is already coming from Rome, as the Internazionali BNL d’Italia (a.k.a. the Rome Masters) starts this week. Eight of the top 10 guys are taking part (Monfils is out with injury and Roddick is out with honeymoon), with Federer and Djokovic on one side of the draw and Nadal and Murray on the other.
Roger Federer sat down with reporters on Sunday for a pre-tournament press conference to discuss the state of his game at this crucial point (click here for the ATPs “Federer under fire” post.) Here’s some of what he had to say:
On his top secret training sessions this past week:
“I’ve been practising as hard as I could here in Italy – up in the hills, tucked away. I won’t tell you where as I like my privacy! Pierre (Paganini, fitness coach) was there and I was basically getting used to clay court movements – the sliding. I mixed it up with some tennis – (Stefan) Koubek was there as a hitting partner – and I made sure I did my four hours a day. At the end of the day, movement is a big part. The best clay-court players are the best movers. The only difference is, here it’s still fast even when it rains. It only gets quick in Monte Carlo or at Roland Garros when it’s hot and the dust starts kicking up, and you can see the hard court underneath. Clay is better for my back though, and I’ve been pain-free for a long time now which is great.”
On his early exit in Monte Carlo:
“Monaco for me was just ‘Let’s see how it goes.’ With the wedding before I didn’t have the preparation so I went there more to see what I was missing than expecting to do well. What I was missing was my serves and my forehands. That’s what I was trying to tighten up now, in this last week, when I was practicing extremely hard.”
On his clay season prospects (via the Times, U.K.):
“I’m expecting big things from myself. Being the second best player on clay makes me happy, even if the best player is winning every week, but it does not satisfy me. I still have to work hard to get that No .1 place back and that means winning titles and needing to win that French Open. Here, it is a case of ‘let’s see how it goes.”
And there were a bunch of confusing quotes about his quest to retake the No. 1 ranking while also focusing on winning Roland Garros. We’ll have to wait for the transcripts to be released to get a handle on this, but let’s just say Roger wants it all:
“I don’t necessarily need to get to No. 1, I just need to win the French Open. . .That’s what my goal is. For me, it doesn’t matter if I’m 2, 3, 4, 5, 8 or 10 in the world. For me, it’s either No. 1 or somewhere else. Especially for me, who has been No. 1 for so long and won so many titles. If you’re not No. 1 then it’s about winning titles and getting back No. 1. That’s the position I’m in now.”
It seems like every tournament we’re hearing about Federer’s new lease on life and new push for the No. 1 ranking, only to be disappointed by an early exit. It’s hard to know if he really believes all the upbeat talk or is just saying what he thinks everyone wants to hear. I think it’s fair to give the man a break this year, considering all that’s going on off court.
As Roger would say: We’ll just have to see how it goes.
If you want more Roger in Rome, I recommend you read Neil Harman’s entertaining report (click here.)