Two months is a long time for Roger Federer to be away from tennis, especially with the French Open now coming into focus. Federer hasn’t played a competitive contest since his performance at Indian Wells in March, instead choosing rest and recovery in preparation for one of the biggest events of the tennis season.
While a back injury certainly contributed to his layoff, Fed also admits it was convenient timing for a rest period (via Madrid-Open.com):
Just been home and practicing hard as I was hoping to. I feel good now. It took me a little time to get over my back issue from Indian Wells. But at the same time, that collided with my vacation anyway. I am entering all the tournaments from here through to the US Open, so it’s going to be a long stretch. You want to be ready for it. I’m very excited, which is a good thing.
From the sounds of his comments, Federer doesn’t seem to be concerned with his recent back injury. That means the Madrid Open should give us a pretty good idea of what to expect from the world's No. 2-ranked player when he takes to the courts at Roland Garros on May 26.
He will not take the Madrid Open lightly. However, there is certainly an opportunity for Federer to use the tournament as a chance to shake off the rust and make sure he is prepared for a title run at the French Open.
Should he take full advantage of his return, there is no reason to expect anything less than a superb performance at Roland Garros.
It certainly wouldn’t hurt to square off against the rest of the Big Four, either.
With Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal also participating in the tournament (as well as the likes of Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer), Federer can use the Madrid Open as an opening act for what is to come in late May. He won at Manzanares Park in 2012; and what better way to announce his presence than by besting his most talented opponents less than three weeks before the French Open?
Unlike Nadal (who has battled injuries much of the season), Federer is not recovering from a major injury or constantly fielding questions about his ability to return to the rigors of the sport. Federer's back injury may have been an issue two months ago, but it should not be a problem at the Madrid Open.
This is a perfect opportunity for Federer to refocus on tournament tennis and refine his skills for a much larger tournament later this month.
Anything short of a semifinals or finals appearance could raise some questions. But it is much more likely the 31-year-old will display fresh legs and a renewed sense of enthusiasm, setting the stage for a tremendous performance at Roland Garros.
Should the latter prove true, expect Federer to be in the running for his second French Open title later this month.