Roger Federer has always been a strong player on clay, but his limited success at the French Open compared to his record at the other three Grand Slams is telling.
While much of the blame for Fed's shortcomings at Roland Garros falls squarely on the shoulders of Rafael Nadal, the impact that the slower-playing surface has on the 17-time Slam champion's game cannot be ignored.
More so than any of the other three Slam events, the French Open neutralizes Federer's biggest strengths out on the court.
Sure, Fed has always been an above-average mover on the tennis court, but he's never been the sort of relentless scrambler that Nadal has been over the past decade. Not only can players like Nadal and Novak Djokovic stop, plant and change direction quickly on the clay, they can turn defense into offense.
Meanwhile, Federer's dominance on grass—specifically at Wimbledon—has been well-documented over the years.Unlike the clay in Paris, the London grass plays super-fast, with winners coming much more easily.
Therefore, Fed's precise shot-making sets him apart from the rest of the men's field at the All-England Club.
In addition to his playing style, the Swiss legend's one-handed backhand has no doubt hurt him a bit against the likes of Rafael Nadal at the French Open in the past.
With younger players like Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Murray all utilizing two-handed backhand shots in order to put their opponents under pressure, Fed is trailing the other members of the Big Four in the power game.
While Fed has unlimited slice and spin he can put on his single-handed backhand, he'll continue to struggle to get his backhands past excellent scramblers like Nadal and Djokovic.
Then there's the issue of Federer's serve. Despite possessing one of the greatest serves in the history of the game, the clay makes Fed slightly less effective in this area. He's unable to pick up easy aces quite as often and the result is fewer cheap points.
Which aspect of Fed's game will be hampered most by the clay?
And nearing age 32, Federer needs as many quick points as he can get over the course of a best-of-five-set Slam tournament.
The beauty of Fed's game is that he is more than capable of overcoming all of these issues. As arguably the greatest champion men's tennis has ever seen, no moment will be too big for him at a tournament of this magnitude.
Plus, his vast arsenal of shots makes him one of the most versatile players in the draw year in and year out.
Given all that Roger Federer has accomplished over the past decade and the simple fact that he still ranks among the top four players on the planet, you have to love his chances of making yet another deep run at the French Open this summer.
But if he's going to win his 18th major title this June, he'll have to do it without his most effective game.
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