It’s been six years since Roger Federer won the French Open, and the No.2 player in the world is looking to do whatever he can to win the championship for a second time in his career. Federer is set to play in the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters on Sunday, beginning a stretch of four tournaments on clay in five weeks.
Nearly 12 years since winning his first Grand Slam tournament, Federer is still among the best players in the world. Winning the Brisbane International in early January, the Swiss legend claimed the 1,000th match victory of his career. While he had a disappointing finish at the Australian Open, Federer managed to win the Dubai Tennis Championships a month later, defeating No.1 Novak Djokovic. A few weeks later, Djokovic got his revenge in the finals at Indian Wells.
But the French Open presents a different set of challenges for the 33-year-old. Federer is the No.2 player in the world, but Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka have better odds to win the second Grand Slam of the year. Kei Nishikori has the same odds as Federer.
Federer has had much more success in the other four Grand Slams, with at least four titles at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open, and just one championship at Roland Garros. He didn’t make it out of the fourth round at last year’s French Open, which was the last clay tournament in which he participated. Just prior to that, Federer was bounced on clay in the first round at Rome by Jeremy Chardy.
But despite some of struggles on clay in 2014, Federer has proven that he can play well on the surface. He nearly won the title at Monte Carlo Country Club last year, losing to Wawrinka in the finals in three sets. Federer has reached the final of the tournament four times, and has never won. While Andy Murray and Nishikori won't be competing in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin (which is technically in France), Federer will still face stiff competition.
More importantly, an impressive showing would be an important momentum builder for Paris. The French Open is less than 40 days away, and Federer could use any type of positive entering the major. In 2014, Federer failed to reach the quarterfinals, after being bounced in five sets by Ernests Gilbis of Latvia.
Federer might have only one French Open championship on his resume, but Nadal will be the only other competitor at Roland Garros to have won the title while Federer was playing his best tennis. Nadal has been victorious nine times at the French Open since 2005, justifiably earning the nickname "King of Clay."
But the time might be right to unseat the clay-court specialist. Nadal is still one of the favorites in the second Grand Slam of 2015, but his struggles could perhap open the door for a new champion. At Indian Wells, Federer demonstrated that he still has excellent ground strokes and can move around the court. Should Federer overachieve in Monte Carlo, or other tournaments leading up to Roland Garros, he might be a serious contender to stand in Nadal's way.
Federer has already had a strong 2015, and his upcoming stretch will mark the first time since 2010 that he’ll play three consecutive weeks on clay. That year, he lost a rematch to Soderling in the French Open quarterfinals.