The clocks have done a fair amount of ticking since the last time Roger Federer played a Mutua Madrid Open, on a 6th of May 2015 which now seems a long way off. Tick, tock, tick, tock. Four years. Almost 1,500 days. Too long a wait for the Swiss to bring his tennis back to the Caja Mágica. But the counter will be reset to zero in 2019 as the master is back in the Spanish capital.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion has chosen the Mutua Madrid Open as one of his stops before the French Open as he makes a return to clay. In the last two years he has skipped the European spring season to avoid physical wear and tear on a body that will be 38 years old on 8 August. This year is different: the Basel native wants to compete for the best clay titles once again; a gift to tennis lovers and to Madrid, who will be able to enjoy his talent and elegance.
“Federer is one of the best players in history, that’s no secret”, said Feliciano López, the Director of the Mutua Madrid Open. “We are happy because his return to Madrid is a gift to the tournament, but above all because fans will be able to see a unique, one-off player in the Caja Mágica. Having the Swiss back on clay with Djokovic and Nadal will be unmissable”.
Roger’s presence in the Caja Mágica makes this year’s Mutua Madrid Open special”, adds Manolo Santana, the Spanish tennis legend and the tournament’s Honorary President. “It doesn’t matter that he’s 37 because he still has that unmistakable class, the innate talent that has made him one of the best players of all time. Being able to enjoy his tennis once again is something no fan of the sport should miss”.
Three titles and another two finals
Federer has celebrated three titles in the Spanish capital and only Rafael Nadal is ahead of him with five. The Swiss lifted his first cup in Madrid in 2006, when the tournament was still played on hard court, with a 7-5, 6-1, 6-0 victory over the Chilean Fernando González in the final. He was king once again in 2009 when he took the first title at its current venue, the Caja Mágica, winning the decider against Nadal 6-4, 6-4. His last title came in 2012, when he came back against Tomas Berdych to win 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 on the famous blue clay.
On top of his three title-winning deciders, Federer has reached two further finals, those of 2007 and 2010, where he bowed out to David Nalbandian and Nadal, respectively. In total, he has played 43 matches in the Mutua Madrid Open, with 35 victories and eight defeats.
The final memory: a stunning match against Kyrgios
Since the 2012 tournament, which was played on blue clay, Federer has only played three matches in the Caja Mágica. He returned the following year but his campaign ended in the last sixteen. And, having missed the event in 2014, he was back in 2015 but lost his opener. Despite bowing out, it was in a match against Nick Kyrgios that few will ever forget. The Australian, who had recently turned 20, saved two match points in the final tiebreak and ended up taking the spoils in the Manolo Santana Stadium with a 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 victory after two hours and 37 minutes.
The following year, in 2016, a back problem prevented him from playing in Madrid and he only played a handful of matches on the clay swing. The Rome tournament that year was the last time he was seen on a clay court.
An unexpected resurrection and number 20
In fact, his back problems forced him to cut his 2016 season short after losing in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon. Many believed it would lead to the retirement of the Swiss player, who had also not won a Grand Slam since 2012. Could he return to the elite at 35 years of age, with Djokovic and Murray playing tennis from another planet and with a generation of young talent coming through? Put simply, yes, that was exactly what he did; he reappeared in 2017 to win the Australian Open and Wimbledon, and repeated the feat in Melbourne the following year, even returning to number one in the world and trouncing records and setting new limits as he did so.
Many agree that a large part of that success lay in the way he managed his workload and his tournament selection; both in 2017 and 2018 he completely skipped the clay swing to prepare for the events on grass. The numbers are there for all to see; he has won 12 titles since coming back and has increased his haul of majors to 20 in his battle with Nadal and Djokovic to enter the Olympus of tennis.
Surely those 20 Grand Slams are the best known statistic on Roger Federer, but it is also worth remembering some other numbers to put into context what his name means to the sport; he has won 100 titles as a professional, played almost 1,500 matches on tour, occupied the number one spot in the ATP ranking for 310 weeks, won eight times on the grass courts of Wimbledon and has six ATP Finals to his name. All of this with jaw-dropping tennis and an exemplary personality and attitude for the future generations to follow. Federer continues to be a tennis genius and icon and this year, finally, he is back in Madrid. Enjoy!