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In Geneva, Roger Federer loses clay-court comeback to Pablo Andujar
The 20-time Grand Slam champion was playing his first tournament since Doha in March, and his first on clay since Roland Garros in 2019.
Published May 18, 2021
Roger Federer’s return to action in Geneva was cut short on Tuesday, as the 20-time Grand Slam champion fell to Pablo Andujar in his opening match at the ATP 250 event, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
It was Federer’s first match on clay since falling to Rafael Nadal in the 2019 Roland Garros semis.
After nine holds to start the day, Andujar drew first blood in the 10th game, bringing up the first break point with Federer serving at 4-5, 30-40—Federer then missed a forehand to give Andujar the set.
The Swiss then started to find his range, finally sneaking out his first break of the match at 1-all in the second set and holding serve from there to send the match to a third set. He then broke Andujar again at 1-all in the decider, eventually building a 4-2 lead, seemingly on his way to victory.
There was one last momentum shift to come, though, as Andujar won the last four games in a row. Federer fought off the Spaniard’s first two match points with winners—one off the backhand, one off the forehand—but one last forehand error from the Swiss ended it after an hour and 51 minutes.
“I really struggled early on to find my rhythm from the baseline,” Federer said. “I wasn’t sure how far in I should play in the court, or how far back, so that was a struggle. I tried other things in the second set, which worked, and I was able to relax from the baseline, take the ball earlier and go through the ball. But I could feel that in the moment it was getting tougher, the game wasn’t there, so obviously I was missing way too much to come through. Even though 4-3 and a break, the chances were all there.
“But I thought he played well down the stretch, and I couldn’t come up with the goods at the end.”
Afterwards, Federer spoke about his expectations heading into Roland Garros.
“I’m just realistic, and I know I will not win the French. Whoever thought I would or could win it is wrong,” the 2009 Roland Garros champion said. “Of course crazier things might have happened, but I’m not so sure in the last 50 years at the French Open somebody just rocked up at 40 years old, being out for a year and a half, and just wins everything straight, or in five sets, or whatever you want to call it.
“I know my limitations at the moment. It’s all based and used for the grass-court season, or for the rest of the season. I’ve said it several times, for me the season really starts on the grass.”
The former No. 1 said that more matches, more tournaments and going through the daily routines of being back on the circuit will help him find his rhythm on the tennis court again.
“Little mistakes like the ones that happened down the stretch of the match today have a better chance of not happening than happening, and for that you just sometimes need to put yourself out there. Sometimes it’s not fun when you know how your limitations are, and for me it’s always difficult, because people expect a lot from me, and I have high expectations for myself. So when I walk out of a match like today and I feel like I can play so much better, it feels strange, and it’s disappointing.
“But at the same time, this is the process I need to go through. That’s why I can’t get too down on myself. I need to go back to the drawing board and talk to the team again, like we did after Doha.”
Andujar's win over the No. 8-ranked Federer was his fifth career Top 10 win, and first in six years. His other four came against No. 9 Fernando Verdasco at Miami in 2011, No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic at Cincinnati in 2012, No. 6 Tomas Berdych at Valencia in 2014 and No. 8 David Ferrer at Barcelona in 2015.
The Spaniard also snapped Federer's 32-match tour-level winning streak in Switzerland—the Swiss hadn't lost on home soil since falling to Juan Martin del Potro in the final of Basel in 2013.