Madrid, always at the cutting edge, is celebrating the return of the great Roger Federer, which should be enjoyed every single day, as if it were the last. The Swiss has built a legendary career, and thoughts of its epilogue are inevitable as we all grow older, but there is magic yet in the racquet that has been so missed for the last three seasons in the Caja Mágica. He has not been seen in the capital since 2015, when he fell at the first hurdle to the irreverent Nick Kyrgios (the Australian was already looking special). So in the 2019 edition there is more than enough reason to get hooked on the Mutua Madrid Open, which is already an extraordinary tournament in itself.
Federer is everything to tennis, and it is unlikely we will see anything like him again. Apart from his extraordinary title haul, having now surpassed a century of wins, including 20 Grand Slams, we should not overlook the Swiss’ composure and values, which he refined over time after somewhat more rebellious beginnings, as he himself recognises. Federer is synonymous with manners and respect and in Madrid he is loved like a hero despite the fact that he has historically been Rafa Nadal’s nemesis. But that takes nothing away from their rivalry, from which there is plenty we can learn.
At nearly 38, Federer is driven by passion and a desire to keep racking up achievements. He is a predator and he has accepted the challenge of Madrid after two years without stepping on a clay court, the surface he has been the least successful on. As the grey hairs start to show, he understands his body better than anyone, and Federer has decided he needs to pace himself and plan a schedule according to his limitations. The European clay is Nadal country, so the genius from Basel, who detests losing, has been reducing his appearances in the Spaniard’s territory, although he has announced his return for 2019. And if he has done that, then it is because he feels capable of going all the way.
Federer does have a very good record in Madrid though. His first appearance came in 2002, when the tournament was played at the Rockódromo, and he has played eleven times in total with a return of 35 victories and eight defeats. Also, he can boast an exclusive achievement that, for the moment, nobody will be able to equal, as he is the only player to have won the trophy of hard court (2006, beating Fernando González in the final), on the classic red clay (2009, when he saw off Nadal 6-4, 6-4) and on the innovative blue clay (he dominated 2012’s experiment to beat Tomas Berdych in the battle for the final). Undoubtedly, Federer is a multi-coloured champion.
In his participation, Feliciano López has achieved a dream he shouted from the rooftops as soon as he took on the role of tournament director. The Toledo native, who is heading the tournament for the first time after learning the ropes from Manolo Santana, the best one could hope for, said that he would do everything possible to bring Federer back to the courts of the Caja Mágica before he hangs up his racquet for good, and now we know; the genius back, it is time to stop talking, sit back and enjoy.
By Enrique Yusta