It’s been three years since Roger Federer has played in the Italian Open, and his opponent will be Joao Sousa. The president of the Italian Tennis Federation took full advantage of the Swiss maestro’s participation and has doubled the price of the tickets for the session to “reward fans who had bought tickets before they knew Federer would play.”
Makes no sense except he knows he can raise prices for Federer, and his fans will easily pay it. Naturally, he couldn’t just say that, though.
Even Federer questions the logic. “They made it in a way like they rewarded the fans who bought tickets earlier? Which is sort of strange, but okay. I just really hope it doesn’t take away the fact I’m really happy to be here.”
Novak Djokovic, who won at the Madrid Open on Sunday, was also asked to give his view on the decision.
And the world No 1 stressed that he didn’t feel disrespected and hoped Federer’s arrival would create more revenue for the tournament.
”It’s the first time I’ve heard that information,” Djokovic said.
“I don’t think that because Roger hasn’t won here that it affects his value or what he brings to the world of tennis or any tournament.
“He is the biggest name of all, historically he’s won the most titles, he is a huge brand in sports worldwide, one of the biggest of all time.
“From one side, I can maybe understand. I don’t feel offended or feel it has disrespected me or Rafa or anybody else.
“The bottom line is that if it brings more tickets and more attendance to the tournament, that great for everybody, I hope it does. If not, too bad.”
At 37 and with 20 Grand Slam titles, Roger Federer still gets excited about playing tennis.
That’s why he added this week’s Italian Open to his schedule.
“I was in the mood to play,” Federer said Tuesday after a practice session on the Foro Italico’s Campo Centrale. “Would I rather practice or play matches? … There would be excitement, more excitement than me coming to a practice court in Switzerland.
“Honestly, I love to play matches. Regardless of what happens here, I just think it’s good for me to play matches at this stage,” Federer added.
After reaching the Madrid Open quarterfinals last week upon his return to clay after a two-year absence, Federer went to Switzerland. He said the cool weather at home also convinced him to make the trip to Rome.
“I felt like playing somewhat maybe more sea level conditions would be good for me,” Federer said.
Federer begins play Wednesday against 75th-ranked Joao Sousa, who saved four match points before beating Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4) Tuesday. Federer is in the same half of the draw as eight-time Rome champion Rafael Nadal.
“I’m so far away in the draw,” Federer said of a possible semifinal matchup with his longtime rival. “I have other problems first getting there.”
Federer is a four-time runner-up at the Italian Open, which he’s never won, making it one of the few significant trophies he hasn’t claimed.
Federer is preparing for the French Open, which starts in less than two weeks.
Federer had initially planned to play only in Madrid before Roland Garros. When he announced on Saturday that he was coming to Rome, Italian Open organizers raised prices for remaining tickets to Wednesday’s session.
“I heard some fans clearly were not happy about it. That’s obviously disappointing to hear. They rewarded the fans who bought tickets earlier, which is sort of strange, but OK,” Federer said. “I just really hope it doesn’t take away the fact I’m really happy to be here. … I’m pumped up to play well. My excitement couldn’t be bigger.”
While he hasn’t won in Rome, Federer has found success in Italy. He won his first career title in Milan in 2001. In the memorable 2006 Italian Open final, Federer lost in a fifth-set tiebreaker to Nadal.
“Always enjoyed playing in Italy. It’s probably the country I’ve played the most junior tennis in,” he said. “Coming down from Switzerland to the clay courts was always a logical junior trip. They have very strong junior tournaments here.”
Nick Kyrgios Knocks Out Medvedev From Italian Open
Nick Kyrgios took full advantage of his crafty game to eliminate Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in the first round of the Italian Open on Tuesday.
For his first win on clay this year, Kyrgios was full of smiles as he fired aces and passing shots seemingly at will.
Kyrgios set the tone by serving underhand to start the match, catching Medvedev off guard. There were also a bevy of drop shots and even a successful through-the-legs effort.
“I was trying to throw him off his game because I knew he loves rhythm. He’s a great player,” Kyrgios said. “Today was a lot of fun. I thought the crowd was a lot of fun. It’s very important to go out there and put on a bit of a show.”
Medvedev played better after getting his lower back massaged after the first set but had no answer for Kyrgios’ wide array of shots in the third, prompting the frustrated Russian to break his racket by slamming it on the dirt.
Kyrgios won the final game at love by serving four straight aces. He had 15 aces in all.
Meanwhile, Serena Williams withdrew ahead of her second-round match against sister Venus because of a previously injured left knee.
Also, Joao Sousa saved four match points before beating Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4) to set up a meeting with Roger Federer, who made a late decision to play in Rome because he wants more matches.
Italian wild and Rome resident Matteo Berrettini reached the third round by upsetting 2017 Rome champion Alexander Zverev 7-5, 7-5 amid a raucous soccer-like atmosphere on Campo Centrale; while David Goffin rallied past Stan Wawrinka 4-6, 6-0, 6-2.
Others advancing included Karen Khachanov, Marin Cilic, American qualifier Taylor Fritz, Radu Albiot, Jeremy Chardy and Diego Schwartzman.
Former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki retired due to a left leg injury after losing a first-set tiebreaker to American opponent Danielle Collins.
Wozniacki took a medical timeout when trailing 5-2 to get treatment then came back to force the tiebreaker but she quickly retired after losing the set.
Wozniacki also retired from her opening match at the Madrid Open last week.
The 30th-ranked Collins notched her fourth victory over a top-20 player this season, with the other three coming during her breakthrough semifinal run at the Australian Open.
“I’m comfortable on this surface, and making improvements within my game, and doing a little bit better than I did last year,” Collins said.
French qualifier Alize Cornet beat Aryna Sabalenka 6-1, 6-4.
Ashleigh Barty, Maria Sakkari, Carla Suarez Navarro and Kristina Mladenovic also advanced.
Tommy Paul’s Friends
Tommy Paul paid close attention as his friends and countrymen Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka produced headline-worthy performances at the Australian Open.
Now Paul aims to make his own Grand Slam breakthrough when he heads to his first French Open main draw in two weeks, thanks to winning the U.S. Tennis Association men’s wild-card challenge.
“I’ve known Frances since I was 9. Known Reilly since I was 10. Known Fritz since I was 13. I love seeing them do well,” Paul said in a telephone interview. “I know how hard every single one of them works. All of them deserve it.”
At Melbourne in January, Tiafoe made his first major quarterfinal before losing to Rafael Nadal. Fritz got to the third round there for the first time before bowing out against Roger Federer. Opelka earned his first Grand Slam match win by upsetting No. 9 seed John Isner.
“Obviously, it’s a little bit of a motivator for me, because I see them doing that well in the tournaments and working so hard in practice — and I’m working just as hard as them,” said Paul, who grew up in North Carolina and now is based at the USTA national campus in Florida. “And I want to be exactly where they were during the Australian Open.”
Each member of that American quartet is 21; Paul turns 22 on Friday. They went through the junior ranks together and now give the country a crop of young talent pushing its way up the ranks in the pros.
“It’s a group that kind of came up together. Did really, really well at the junior level,” said Martin Blackman, the general manager of USTA player development. “They push each other, because … they all believe they can do similar things, I think. That positive peer pressure is a really healthy dynamic.”
Lauren Davis, a 25-year-old from Ohio, clinched the USTA women’s wild-card berth Sunday to secure a seventh French Open appearance. Davis is a former top-30 player whose ranking dropped to No. 264 last year after she sat out the clay-court circuit, citing fatigue.
Paul was the French Open junior champion in 2015, beating Fritz in the final to become only the second U.S. player since John McEnroe in 1977 to win the boys’ title there. Fritz defeated Paul in that year’s U.S. Open junior final.
At Roland Garros, where play begins May 26, Paul will be contesting his third main draw at a major tournament, after a pair of U.S. Open appearances.
Unlike many Americans over the years, he has an affinity for the slow surface used in Paris. That’s because he learned to play tennis on green clay.
“It was all we practiced on, all I played on, growing up. All I really knew,” Paul said. “I feel like it’s more like a crafty surface. You can mix in drop shots and you have to play a lot more different balls. A lot more factors into the game.”
Despite missing months at a time last season with an injured right elbow, and again this season because of a problematic left knee, he reached a career-high 136th in the ATP rankings last week.
“I’ve just been really impressed by how he’s worked and rehabbed. Just watching him put the work in every day. Taking care of his body. Taking ownership. Becoming more mature,” the USTA’s Blackman said. “That shows the self-awareness and maturity that’s just a huge part of a player being able to maximize their potential.”
Paul’s goal at the moment is to get into the top 50 by the end of the season; he knows the French Open provides an opportunity to take strides toward that.
He says “every part of my game has room for improvement,” and thinks the key is “having more of an open mind about trying to improve everything — off the court, especially.”
He went on: “Just doing everything a little bit more professional now. … Working with a psychologist on breathing or what to be thinking at certain times of a match. Or diet stuff, making sure I’m eating healthy. Doing my recovery. Talking to my team, to my coaches, to my agents, to my parents. Making sure everybody’s in the loop and we’re all doing everything we can to boost my game.”
Serena Williams Pulls Out Of Italian Open
Serena Williams withdrew from the Italian Open on Tuesday ahead of her second-round match against sister Venus because of a previously injured left knee.
Tournament organizers made the announcement a day after Serena opened her clay-court season with a straight-sets win over Swedish qualifier Rebecca Peterson.
“I must withdraw from the Italian Open due to pain in my left knee,” Serena said, according to the WTA website. “I will miss the fans and competition at one of my favorite tournaments. I’ll be concentrating on rehab and look forward to seeing you all at the French Open and next year in Rome.”
The next tournament on Serena’s schedule is Roland Garros, which starts in less than two weeks.
It’s the third straight event that the 37-year-old Serena has exited from due to physical problems.
She retired due to a viral illness during her third-round match against Garbine Muguruza in Indian Wells, California; and withdrew with the left knee injury before her third-round match at the Miami Open in March.
As a result of this latest withdrawal, Venus advances into the third round via a walkover.