Roger Federer: Jim Courier gives three reasons for clay court return ahead of French Open

That is the view former world No 1 Jim Courier.

Next week, Federer will play a clay court match for the first time since 2016 when he competes at the Madrid Masters and then in May, he will compete at the French Open, 10 years after winning his maiden Roland Garros title.

At 37-years-old, Federer is taking a major gamble by playing on the surface but clearly feels ready and able to play after back and knee concerns in the past.

And Courier feels Federer’s decision will have been well thought through.

“Only Roger knows for sure why he is adding clay back to his schedule but I believe there are a few good reasons,” Courier told Australian publication The Age.

“One, he must feel confident enough in his back to play on clay again.

“His fitness coach has said that clay is the surface that caused his back the most trouble in recent years so they were avoiding it to protect his body.

“Two, he missed playing at Roland Garros. Three, by playing a few clay events he will be sharper at the start of the grass court season.”

When asked at Indian Wells about his decision to play on the clay, Federer said there was no deliberate plan to not play the French Open over the last three years.

“It was never the plan to miss three French Opens,” he told Tennis Channel.

“In 2016, I had to. In 17, I went on clay for a couple of days [then] spoke to the team and asked them what they thought and they said be really sure that you want to do this and I was like ‘I’m not so let’s not do it.

“In 2018, I was just not in the mood. I was happy to have an extended break again for longevity reasons that I could still stay in the game.

“And then this year, I was not in the mood to have a massive break.

“I was also excited about the idea of going back onto the clay because I really feel the body’s in a great place right now.

“And I’d like to play the French Open again and mix up the schedule.

“It actually came very naturally and I asked the team what they thought and they said ‘don’t ask us, as long as you’re happy to keep playing tennis, that’s all we care about and whatever tournament you want to play that’s all good’. So that was very nice of my team.”