After losing Thursday to Dominic Thiem in the Rome third round, Roger Federer addressed the media about his ailing back and his plans for the French Open which begins in nine days. He doesn’t sound too worried.
Q. Do you still feel it’s been a positive week for you to play two matches, even though you didn’t go through?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah. No, absolutely. I’m happy I was able to play and still feel about the same, like yesterday, not worse. That was most important.
So I feel like now obviously time starts ticking more towards Paris. Next 10, 12 days are really going to be important for me to recover, and then, you know, make a plan, I guess, today what the recovery and practice plan’s going to be.
Q. About your performance today, are you happy, not happy?
ROGER FEDERER: Doesn’t matter. (Laughter.)
Q. What you could have changed? I mean, I noticed that you were playing very much from the back when you were returning the serve. That was a choice that you decided? Why? And you were far away compared to normal, other times.
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah. It doesn’t matter how I played. Important is that I didn’t have any setbacks and I was able to step on the tennis court and that I tried what I could with what I had. It was not really a tactical match for me, to be honest.
Q. (Off microphone.)
ROGER FEDERER: Not much.
Q. Do you feel like you’re maybe running after time to be ready for next big event, or are you confident that you’re coming back right on time, as you wish?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, I’m confident and hopeful at the same time. You know, I have only played five matches in the last, what is it, four months now, so clearly don’t want to get too overly excited about what’s ahead, but at the same time I’m a positive thinker and I believe that I’m going to recover, you know, well from Madrid and here now, that hopefully the next ten days are going to be easier and I can practice really well sort of starting next week.
That’s the hope I have, and then we’ll see the rest, you know, how it’s going to come.
Q. Do you know more or less how you’re going to organize your nine days, ten days between now and the first day of the French Open?
ROGER FEDERER: No. I’m going to have a meeting with the team this afternoon, just talk about the options we have: Do we stay in Rome, do we go to Paris, do we go back to Switzerland? You know, those are three options there. Should I rest, should I train, what can I do with physiotherapy? All that stuff, you know.
Just needs to be discussed and talked about what’s the best now. That’s why I’m so happy that I didn’t get, you know, hurt again this week, that it was worth it that I played, you know, on the court. Okay, it was compromised, but that I don’t care about. I’m just happy I’m through the tournament now and I can look ahead.
Now I can, how do you say, I can pace myself. In a match you cannot really pace yourself. That’s why I think it’s — yeah, I’m interested to see myself what exactly they suggest and then at the end what we’re going to do. I don’t know exactly.
Q. In past eras, it was fairly common for top players who wanted to peak at Wimbledon or just preferred grass or didn’t like clay to skip parts of the clay season altogether just to focus on peaking at Wimbledon. With all the health issues you have had in this part of the season, I am curious if you’ve ever considered giving up on the clay stretch altogether to try to be 100% for when grass comes?
ROGER FEDERER: No. Otherwise I wouldn’t have gone to Madrid and here. So there’s your answer there.
I actually felt like, because after not being able to play Miami because of virus, I already practiced on clay in Miami and then was ten days, I guess, before Monaco in Monaco, I guess, I never had better clay court preparation, to be honest. Conditions were perfect. I practiced on center court every day for about two hours a day.
So I have a lot of hours on the clay already this year, you know. Maybe not on match courts but on practice courts. I actually thought I could really do a good result in Paris. Now the last couple of weeks it’s been more difficult. I see my chances as, you know, as not great to have the most unbelievable run, but if maybe in three, four days I can practice 100% for next week, then I believe that something is possible again.
But as of now, clearly the way I’m playing right now is never going to be enough for any good run in Paris, and then I also wouldn’t play this way. I’m still confident I will be fine somehow.
And, no, I reshuffled my schedule around a few times this year so I’m flexible. I’m easy about it. It really depends now on the next, I think, seven to nine days how I can really play in Paris.
Q. You said before your first match here that you expected to lose in straight sets. Do you think if you’re feeling that way in ten days’ time, would you start the French Open?
ROGER FEDERER: No. This was different. This was an information tournament for me. Never a result tournament.
I knew I wasn’t good enough for any result here, so that’s why I hope you don’t read into it so much and I don’t. For me, I need to see this completely in isolation, and I cannot carry any luggage from here other than the positive information out of Rome. It just needs to stay here, the results, what I couldn’t do and how limited I was. I was far off. I need to see it completely in isolation.
If I see it that way, actually things are pretty good. You know, if you look at the results and how I played, yeah, things are not great, but those things can change very quickly, as we know.
If I can play 100% again and move again correctly, my mind’s in a good place, you know, my game is there, I mean, I’m still almost beating Thiem and beating Zverev with whatever I have. I’m surprising myself.
But it doesn’t matter. Like I said, this is like who cares about the results here and now it matters what comes now in the next couple of months.
Q. Can you explain to us, the human being, what it means to play having a stick in your mind what your problems, what you don’t know what happens next five minutes, if you can block or what it means? How tough it is mentally.
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I mean, there are two things. No. 1, you’re happy to be on a match court after all these months and weeks, and then at the other times it’s pretty frustrating because you know you can’t play freely and correctly. And it’s not about tactics, it’s not about results. It’s not about how you play the break point or did you play from far back or from front. Who cares, you know?
At the same time I actually, in a way, enjoyed myself still today, because I just said, Who cares what I do at 30-All? Who cares what happens, really?
So for the first time maybe I could play a match really just playing freely, trying out a few things. I mean, obviously I was limited because Thiem, you know, had completely the upper hand from the baseline so I had to find other ways to win the point. That was interesting in itself. So I kind of enjoyed it from that aspect.
But then of course you lose the match, you lose, you can’t play again this week, so you’re still, to some extent, disappointed, but okay, two minutes, and then get rid of the press, get rid of the doping test, and then I can’t wait to have the meeting with the team and start relaxing and preparing for what’s to come.
Q. Can you give some more precision about your pain, what you feel on the court and what you feel beside the court? What the pain is about?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, there is rests from Madrid and obviously not having played any matches, I just feel the body is just not ready, you know. So I’m not going to go into specifics, honestly. I’m not in the mood for you guys to start debating about it because you don’t know, and I won’t tell you everything, anyway, but it’s definitely got something to do with the back.
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