With the clay-court season having come to a close, a new grass-court season begins, and the long-awaited return of 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer is upon us.
Federer, who opted to sit out the clay-court season for a second straight year, hasn’t played since dropping his opening match in Miami to Thanasi Kokkinakis, 80 days ago on March 24:
Before that loss, Federer posted the best start to a season in his entire career, winning his first 17 matches. Those wins included a record 20th Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open, a 20th career ATP World Tour 500-level title at Rotterdam (also a record, tied with Rafael Nadal) and a runner-up finish at the ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Indian Wells, where he lost to Juan Martin del Potro:
In May, Federer announced he would rejoin the tour at the MercedesCup in Stuttgart, which takes place this week.
“Excited to announce that I will be coming back to Germany for the MercedesCup in June,” he told his fans on Facebook. “Looking forward to seeing you at the grass courts in Stuttgart!”
The Swiss will have plenty of motivation in Germany this year. Not only has he not played a match in two and a half months, but he’s actually never won the title in Stuttgart, making it as far as the semifinals in 2016 (falling to Dominic Thiem) and dropping his opener in 2017 (to Tommy Haas).
In both of those losses, he held match point (he actually held two match points against Thiem).
Federer—currently ranked No. 2 behind Nadal —can also take No. 1 back if he reaches the final here.
Making it that far won’t be easy, though. Federer opens against Mischa Zverev, against whom he’s 5-0—and 12-0 in sets. Seven of the 12 sets have, however, been 6-4 or closer (including three tiebreakers).
If he gets past Zverev, he could have a quarterfinal showdown with Denis Shapovalov—a former junior champion at Wimbledon and one of the fastest-rising young stars on the ATP World Tour right now.
And from there it gets even tougher—former Wimbledon quarterfinalists Nick Kyrgios, Feliciano Lopez and Gilles Simon are all potential semifinal opponents, with former Wimbledon finalists Milos Raonic and Tomas Berdych as potential final opponents (as well as Lucas Pouille, the No. 2 seed this week).
But win or lose, Federer will be sure to enjoy himself at a tournament he’s always loved.
“The atmosphere at TC Weissenhof is amazing,” Federer said of the tournament venue. “You immediately feel that this club is full of life. The fans get really going during the matches. On grass, my expectations are naturally high, so I’m looking forward to once again playing in Stuttgart.”