It didn't take long for tennis superstar Roger Federer to return to competition following the recent birth of his twin sons. The 17-time Grand Slam champion is in action in Rome, which will help him prepare better for the French Open and position him best to succeed for the remainder of the 2014 season.
Courtney Nguyen of Sports Illustrated reported what Federer had to say on the matter on Tuesday, as his decision was aided after consulting with his wife, Mirka, and his team:
Everything happened all of a sudden on Tuesday evening. So that was a bit of a surprise. I thought it was going to be a few days or maybe even a week down the road. So when they came on Tuesday that gave Rome a bigger chance for me to come and play here. I spoke to the team and I spoke to Mirka asked them for their advice on what I should do, and they all said I should quickly come to play here. So I was like, "Ok, if you don’t want me around I’ll go away."
The added humor suggests that even Federer's closest family wants him back on the court and in pursuit of making further history. King Roger himself broke the news that he'd be in Rome for the Italian Open on Twitter:
With all that Federer has accomplished, it would be easy for him to rest on his laurels. At age 32, he is already considered arguably the greatest tennis player ever, and his performance declined to the point that he won just one singles title last season. But he's already matched that total in 2014 and still shows an evident passion for the game.
Given the greatness he experienced in his prime, it's a testament to Federer's resolve that he still dares to challenge the best in the world even though his best days may well be behind him. A lot of questions about his form and future have followed since he stopped getting deep into Grand Slam tournaments with as much regularity. But if people think he's giving up, they have another thing coming.
Federer appears to be on a mission to prove his doubters wrong, and tuning up on the clay in Rome is an ideal precursor to the French Open. Christopher Clarey of the New York Times noted how Federer's fellow world-renowned peer Novak Djokovic is taking on the same schedule:
The only time Federer triumphed at Roland Garros was when Rafael Nadal suffered his only career loss at the venue before reaching the final. The King of Clay figures to be the prohibitive favorite this time around, and it would be remarkable if Federer could muster enough magic to defeat his difficult adversary.
Djokovic had to withdraw from the Madrid Open due to a wrist injury, so he's far from a sure thing at the season's second major and moving forward. Although Nadal won the title in Madrid, he had two shocking losses on his preferred clay surface, so his status is at least somewhat precarious.
Wimbledon is Federer's signature event, as he's won on the grass of the All England Club a remarkable seven times, with his last victory coming in 2012. Defending champion Andy Murray hasn't been quite right since breaking through for the UK at Wimbledon last year.
All of tennis' biggest stars have leaked oil at some point during this 2014 campaign, but Federer has been on quite the upward trend compared to last year. As is conveyed in the video above, he is confident about the season to date and is taking his return one match at a time, starting with Wednesday's clash with Jeremy Chardy.
Federer's swift return at the Rome Masters is monumental for his future, as he approaches the most critical stretch of the schedule. It has an all-important, crossroads sort of feeling, as his level of play will determine just how much Federer has left in the tank—and how many Grand Slam wins may be in his future, if any.
This move signals a sense of urgency from Federer, as he must know how pivotal the rest of 2014 is for the remainder of his playing days on the court. Although his legacy is already sealed, there is no reason for Federer to walk away just yet—or to let up in his preparation, which he would have been doing by extending his paternity leave.
Those around him have faith in his abilities to push him back so soon, and Federer has the relentless self-reliance that separates the good from the great and the great from the legendary. It will be fascinating to see how he fares in Rome and beyond, but Federer is taking the proper physical and metal approaches toward a great year overall.