Roger Federer confirmed his intentions to play the clay-court season a while ago. But could the Swiss possibly add an extra tournament to his relatively thin schedule?
A lot would depend on how Federer adapts to clay during his training blocks. That said, there are certain obvious benefits if he were to opt to play in Munich, which is slated to take place one week before the Madrid Masters.
The BMW Open in Munich, a 250 tournament, doesn’t commence until the end of April, and taking byes into account the top players wouldn't have to be play any match before the first week of May. So there is still plenty of time for the Swiss to prepare for it.
Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal will be resting that week following his excursions in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, so the Spaniard wouldn’t be a problem for the Swiss. And Novak Djokovic is only scheduled to play the clay-court Masters events in preparation for the French Open.
Participating in Munich could be hugely beneficial to the Swiss. It could net him vital ranking points ahead of the French Open which would only boost his draw. Federer is currently World No. 4, but not having to play Nadal or Djokovic till at least the semi-finals is always a bonus.
The Swiss enjoys unparalleled love and support wherever he goes across the globe, and speaking fluent French, German and English certainly helps. In fact, Federer is said to speak five different languages, which would ensure he gets a lot of crowd support in Munich.
In terms of the field in Munich, the only big worry for the Swiss would be defending champion, Alexander Zverev. The 22-year-old is the World No. 3 and has won three Masters 1000 events, including two on clay.
Zverev had earlier announced his intention to not play Munich, but it is likely he will take a wildcard into the tournament after his early exits in Monte Carlo and Barcelona. If Zverev does play, he will have the home support in Munich, making him an even tougher opponent.
However, the German has struggled for form this season and is certainly beatable. His biggest challenge might be to get to the final (which is the only round he can face Federer), and he is not at all a lock for that right now.
Dominic Thiem is another potential threat in Munich if the Austrian decides to play in Bavaria. But after his participation in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, it seems a stretch that Thiem’s energy levels will be high enough for a third consecutive tournament.
Thiem's coach, Gunter Bresnik, often likes his pupil to have a packed schedule, but playing too many matches can have a detrimental effect on the young Austrian. This weakness is something a player of Federer’s experience can smell from a mile away, which only strengthens the argument that the Swiss could do well in Munich if he chooses to play there.
Clay is certainly not Federer’s favored surface. But if he were to win a 102nd career title in Munich, it would only add to the long list of achievements and superlatives we continue to associate him with.Published 26 Apr 2019, 19:53 IST