The Madrid Masters is just around the corner and Roger Federer is eyeing a successful return to clay in this tournament. It is worth remembering that Madrid is one of the most comfortable venues for Federer as he has won the tournament three times (2006, 2009, 2012).
Flash back to 2012, where the blue clay courts were introduced for the first time in Madrid. The response was not healthy though, with players like Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic stating that they would not participate the next year if the surface remained the same. Both of them succumbed to early losses, to their compatriots Fernando Verdasco and Janko Tipsarevic respectively.
Even though there was negativity surrounding the tournament, fans kept coming in great numbers as Federer was still in the tournament. And he made their pennies worthwhile by winning the tournament in his own style.
Federer started the tournament against Milos Raonic after receiving a bye in the first round. Raonic was then on the verge of entering the big league and he troubled Federer with his terrific shot-making and won the first set 6-4.
Federer realized his groundstrokes were not effective against Raonic and he shifted his gears to an aggressive serve-and-volley approach. But even a change in approach didn't yield results quickly for the Swiss as he had to squeeze a game from Raonic before taking the set 7-5.
Both the players went neck-and-neck in the third set which went to a tie-breaker. Federer just edged Raonic as he won the set and match in one of the most incredible battles between the two.
Federer's opponent in the third round was Richard Gasquet. He eased past him with a comfortable 6-3, 6-2 victory in over an hour, and in the quarter-finals he defeated David Ferrer (6-4, 6-4).
The hallmark of all these matches was Federer's style of play; he was aggressive from the baseline and was even more aggressive and successful at the net.
Federer had a rough year in 2011 as he was unable to finish points and matches - a feeling that every tennis player would have felt at some point in their respective careers. So he started his 2012 campaign with a more aggressive approach and was successful in winning the Dubai Open before heading to the clay season and playing the Madrid Masters.
Coming to the semi-finals, Federer faced Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic who defeated Djokovic in the quarter-finals. Just like his previous couple of matches, Federer ripped Tipsarevic apart with a 6-3, 6-2 victory.
The final was a more dramatic match where Federer played against Tomas Berdych. Berdych had previously defeated Federer a few times and this gave him the confidence to start well as he won three back-to-back games for a healthy 3-0 lead in the first set.
Federer lacked balance in the first set as he coughed up plenty of unforced errors while simultaneously being unable to read the shots coming from Berdych's racquet. Berdych took the first set 6-3.
Federer looked uncomfortable even in the second set as Berdych didn't allow him to approach the net as frequently as he had in his previous matches. He broke Federer's serve early on, but lost his serve immediately in the next game.
It was Federer who broke Berdych one more time and took the second set 7-5. Errors were flowing freely from both the players' racquets at the end of the second set, and the third set was not much different. Federer finally doused the Berdych challenge and won the tournament with a 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 victory over the Czech.
Watch the winning moment of Federer below:
With this victory, Federer achieved a unique feat, winning the same tournament on three different surfaces (2006 - hard, 2009 - clay, 2012 - blue clay).