Roger Federer had an occasional lapse at the Miami Open, such as when he lost track of the score during a match and lined up to serve on the wrong side. A senior moment. After all, he’s 35 now.
In a concession to age, Federer plans to step away from the tour for at least the next eight weeks. He’s dominating a young man’s sport and won his third title of the year Sunday at the Miami Open, but he wants to pace himself. Plus, with 7-year-old twin daughters and 2-year-old twin sons, Federer has other things to do.
“The body needs a break, the mind needs a break, the family needs me again,” he said. “I want to be there. I’m looking forward to that now.”
While Federer begins a well-earned vacation, there’s still plenty for tennis fans to look forward to during the clay season that starts this week. Rafael Nadal believes he’s ready for a good run on his favorite surface, and Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are expected to return soon from injuries.
Nadal, 30, lost to Federer for the third time this year Sunday, dropping his record in Key Biscayne finals to 0-5. That ties for the worst by any player at any tournament in the open era.
Nadal hasn’t won a tournament since last spring and hasn’t won a major since he earned his 14th Grand Slam title at the 2014 French Open. But he graded the past three months favorably, viewing three runner-up finishes on hard courts as a positive.
“I am close to what I need to be and at a very high level,” Nadal said. “I believe I’m ready to win titles.”
Does that include the French Open? Nadal will play a full clay schedule, but he’s not ready to declare himself a top contender at Roland Garros, where he has won a record nine titles while losing twice in 74 matches. The tournament begins May 28.
“I don’t know if I am a candidate yet to win the French Open,” he said. “Four tournaments remain before the French Open. Let’s see what’s happening in those four tournaments.”
Federer likes Nadal’s chances.
“The clay court is around the corner,” Federer told his longtime rival during Sunday’s trophy ceremony. “I’m sure you’re going to tear it to pieces over there.”
Also likely to be in the mix on clay are 2016 French Open champion Djokovic and runner-up Murray. Both skipped Indian Wells and Key Biscayne in March because of elbow injuries, and both are expected to return this month.
As for the women’s tour: Who knows? Elena Vesnina won Indian Wells and Johanna Konta won Key Biscayne, and for both players, it was the biggest title of her career.
It’s uncertain when Serena Williams will return from a knee injury that has sidelined her since she won her 23rd major title at the Australian Open two months ago. In her absence, women’s draws will be wide open.
Men’s draws will be without Federer for a while. He’s off to his best start since 2006 with a record of 19-1, all on hard courts. But he plans to skip all of the clay tournaments leading to the French.
Federer even hedged slightly in committing to Roland Garros, the Grand Slam least suited to his graceful game because of the grinding it demands.
“You’ll probably see me at the French again,” he said.
Federer said he’s healthy and wants to stay that way after missing the final six months of 2016 because of a knee injury. With that in mind, he plans to wait until a couple of weeks before the French to start practicing on clay.
“My knee was really strange on the clay last year, so maybe being away from the clay as much as possible is a good thing,” he said.
Before Federer began his break, he put in a plug for idyllic Key Biscayne, a premier tournament site for 31 years. Organizers say the event will stay in Miami, but its future has been in question since a 2015 appeals court decision that prevents improvements to the complex.
“The coolest atmosphere on tour,” said Federer, now a three-time champion. “It really is a beautiful stop. I hope it’s going to be a successful tournament for years to come.”