Roger Federer, for the second consecutive campaign, chose to skip the entirety of the clay court season in order to remain fit for the events on grass and hard courts later in the year.

The Swiss is not a fan of the red dirt, having won just 10 of his 97 ATP singles titles on his least favorite surface. He prefers to play on hard and grass courts, which has yielded him most of his titles.

Federer missed six months in 2016 due to a knee injury and only returned to action at the start of the 2017 campaign. The 36-year-old was clear staying fit was his top priority and hence skipped the clay court campaign last year to protect his knee.

The Swiss maestro made the decision to skip the entire clay court season yet again in 2018 suggesting that he needed a break after playing four events in the first three months of the campaign. The world number two’s decision did not go down well with various tournament organizers and former players.

However, Italian Tennis Federation chief Angelo Binaghi was not concerned about his absence after revealing the recently concluded Italian Open was a massive success. Nadal won his third title of the season in Rome defeating Alexander Zverev in the final.

Binaghi disclosed they were sold out in the last three days of the competition, with the crowds treated to a classic matchup between Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the semi-final Saturday.

The Italian tennis chief admitted they did miss Federer, but is certain his presence could not have made the tournament go any better — in short, he made it clear the most popular tennis player on the ATP Tour was not missed at the Rome event.

“Even if he (had played), what could we have done more? On Friday, Saturday and Sunday we had sold out, which had not happened last year,” Binaghi said about Federer, as quoted on Tennis World USA. “Of course with Federer, it would have been an even better tournament, but the event largely overcame the Federer issue last year, showing once again that traditional events are much stronger even than the greatest champion ever.” 

Federer will also miss the second Grand Slam of the year at Roland Garros — the third consecutive year he is missing the event in Paris. The Swiss tennis legend is expected to return at the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart, when the grass court season gets underway on June 11.

Nadal is currently the world number one, but the Spaniard will have to defend his title at Roland Garros to remain at the top of the ATP men’s singles rankings. If he fails to win his 11th title at the French Open, his long-time rival Federer will begin the grass court season as the top ranked player, as the two are currently separated by just 100-points.