From clay to grass: Roger Federer's transition through the years

From clay to grass: Roger Federer's transition through the years

For the Swiss, playing well on clay has almost always been a springboard to playing well on grass—so could his deep run at Roland Garros be a good omen for the coming weeks?

Making the transition from clay to grass is generally regarded as one of the toughest transitions in tennis, not just because of the complete contrast in court speed and bounce, but because of the quick turnaround—there’s only a three-week lead-up season between the French Open and Wimbledon.

For Roger Federer, though, playing well on clay has almost always been a springboard to playing well on grass—so could his deep run at Roland Garros be a good omen for the coming weeks?

After reaching back-to-back quarterfinals at Masters 1000 events in Madrid and Rome—his first tournaments on clay in three years—Federer made it all the way to the semifinals at Roland Garros, falling to Rafael Nadal, who went on to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires for a record 12th time.

“I thought it was a great tournament,” Federer said. “I really enjoyed it. The crowd support couldn’t have been better—maybe one of the best in my entire 20-year career that I’ve been on tour at a Slam.

“In terms of playing, I think I played really, actually, well. I think I surprised myself, maybe, with how deep I got in this tournament, and how well I was actually able to play throughout the two weeks.”

It was his eighth time reaching the semis or better at Roland Garros. In the seven previous times Federer’s gone this far at Roland Garros, he’s gone on to win Wimbledon five times—in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2012—as well as reaching one more final in 2008 and one more quarterfinal in 2011, where he was actually up two sets to love against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga before falling in five.

Also, in six of the seven previous times Federer has reached the semis or better at Roland Garros, he has won at least one ATP title during the grass court season, either at Halle or Wimbledon—or both.

He will kick off his grass-court campaign this coming week at the Noventi Open in Halle, a 500-level event he has won nine times before in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017.

“I love playing on grass, especially here in Halle, where I’ve enjoyed so much success over the years. It's probably been my best hunting ground,” he said during his run to the final of the event last year, where he was stopped in three sets by Borna Coric. “This tournament always has such a great field. There are always so many fans coming out, too, and they know I’ll always give my best here.”

Should Federer win Halle for the 10th time this year, he would become just the second man in the Open Era to win the same ATP event 10 times. The only man to achieve the feat is Nadal, who has done it at three events, winning Monte Carlo 11 times, Barcelona 11 times and Roland Garros 12 times.

Federer has an impressive 63-7 (.900) career record in Halle. He has never lost before the quarterfinals in 16 previous appearances, and has reached the final or won the title in 12 of his last 13 tries.