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Federer denies he's playing the French Open as part of a retirement tour: 'I felt like my body is strong enough again'

Hannah Wilks in News 25 Feb 2019
  • Roger Federer has denied that his plans to play the clay-court season in 2019 are part of a retirement tour
  • Federer: 'I felt like my body is strong enough again'
Roger Federer (STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

Roger Federer has denied that his plans to play the clay-court season in 2019 are part of a retirement tour.

Speaking at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, where he beat Philipp Kohlschreiber in three sets on Monday to reach the second round, Roger Federer has denied that his plans to play the clay-court season in 2019 indicate that he's planning to retire.

'It was purely based on [the fact that] I would just like to play,' Federer said in Dubai, speaking ahead of his first match against Kohlschreiber.

Federer has not played any clay-court events since 2016, preferring to manage his schedule and focus on hard courts and grass in the wake of the knee surgery he underwent later that year. The approach has paid off, seeing him win the Australian Open in 2017 and 2018 and Wimbledon in 2017 - his first Grand Slam titles since 2012.

Federer last played the French Open in 2015  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
But Federer confirmed after his exit from the Australian Open that he intended to play the French Open in 2019 along with one more clay-court event - subsequently confirmed to be the Mutua Madrid Open.

Many speculated that the decision signalled that the 37-year-old was planning to retire - an imputation Federer, playing his first tournament since the Australian Open, refuted.

'This doesn't mean this is my last clay-court season, or I had to play one more time before I retired. That was not the thinking,' Federer said on Sunday. 

'My body was ready, I was ready, my schedule with the family, my schedule with the team was ready to do it again. This is when I opted to say, "It will be nice. Instead of taking a big chunk off, I'd rather stay in the rhythm and actually enjoy myself on the clay."'

Federer emphasized that his decisions where scheduling is concerned have been guided by how he feels about his physical conditioning.

'I think after not playing for two years, also missing the French [Open] three years ago because of injury, I think the team understood that I was in the mood to do it again. I did grow up on clay, after all. I felt like my body is strong enough now again to do the surface changes from hard to clay to grass to hard. In the past I felt different.'


Federer won his solitary French Open title in 2009. His last match there was in 2015 when he was defeated in the quarterfinals by compatriot Stan Wawrinka.

Pursuing his 100th career title and what would be a record eighth in Dubai, Federer started his campaign on Monday against Philipp Kohlschreiber, where he wavered but was ultimately victorious against the German veteran. 

Fernando Verdasco is Federer's next opponent in Dubai (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images)
Playing for the first time since losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the fourth round of the Australian Open, Federer broke Kohlschreiber's serve in the first game of the match after opting to receive, saved the only break point he faced and coasted to a 6-4 lead. But a much poorer second set, in which Federer served much less effectively and made more mistakes, saw him get broken twice by Kohlschreiber and while the second seed retrieved the first break, he could not retrieve the second - although he had break points when Kohlschreiber served for the set. 

In the decider, however, Federer once again cleaned up his game and allowed Kohlschreiber to get on the board just once as he wrapped up 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 victory, ending with 29 winners and 29 unforced errors - not bad given the wind in Dubai and the length of time since Federer last played.

Federer improves to 14-0 over Kohlschreiber. He also survived on a day which saw carnage for the top seeds, with fourth seed Karen Khachanov bowing out at the hands of Nikoloz Basilashvili and seventh seed Milos Raonic, Federer's projected quarterfinal opponent, losing to Jan-Lennard Struff with a horribly mangled smash on match point. The only seeded player now remaining in Federer's half of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships draw is Borna Coric, the sixth seed, who has yet to take to the courts.

Federer's next opponent will be Fernando Verdasco, another veteran with a winless record against him. The two are due to face off in the second round on Wednesday.

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Federer denies he's playing the French Open as part of a retirement tour: 'I felt like my body is strong enough again'

Roger Federer has denied rumours that he is playing the clay-court season in 2019 because he intends to retire: 'That was not the thinking,' Federer said in Dubai where he survived a three-set clash with Philipp Kohlschreiber on Monday

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