Federer on top form to break clay-court curse

Updated: 2007-04-11 11:32
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Roger Federer warned his rivals that he is fully fired-up for the start of the clay-court season despite his recent shocking defeats to Guillermo Canas.

The usually flawless Federer suffered two unexpected losses to Canas, currently ranked 29th in the world, at the Masters Series hard-court events in Indian Wells and Key Biscayne but insisted on Tuesday that he was ready to bounce back on clay.

"They were tough matches for me and Miami hurt in particular because losing 7-6 in the third set is never fun," Federer told a news conference in his home city of Basel.

"But I would honestly rather lose to the same guy twice than lose to two different guys.

"I think if I lost to two different players I would think I wasn't playing well, but with one guy I can think 'OK, this guy is on a roll'. It's just easier to digest."

Federer, a 10-time Grand Slam winner, was in Basel to unveil a postage stamp commissioned in his honor by the Swiss Post.

He is due to fly to Monaco on Wednesday for next week's clay-court Master Series tournament in Monte Carlo.

Federer has not played a match since his second defeat to Canas on March 27 and he is hoping his rare slump could even prove a blessing in the long-term -- by giving him more time to prepare for his tough summer schedule.

"That's the only advantage I can see, because it has definitely taken away my confidence a little bit, but it has also given me more time and maybe that is just as good a thing.

"It's exactly what I didn't have for the last two or three years, one of those surprise losses where all of a sudden I got more time off so I hope it can help me out."

Federer said he had spent time since the second defeat building up his fitness levels with conditioning coach Pierre Paganini and would use Monte Carlo to test the level of his clay-court play.

"There were a few seasons when I skipped Monaco to give myself more of a break but I have stopped doing that because the tournament gives you a good idea of how you are playing and what stuff you still have to work on at the practice courts.

"It's similar to the French Open in the way it plays and even if you lose in the first round it helps give an indication of how the other guys are playing and reminds you how clay is supposed to be played."

Despite playing mainly on clay as a youngster, Federer has rarely managed to play at his formidable best on the surface.

As a result, he is still chasing his first French Open title -- the only Grand Slam tournament still to elude him.

"Last year I couldn't win a single clay-court tournament, so I want to do that this year, and the French Open is obviously huge for me as the one Slam I haven't yet won," Federer said.

"If I can win it this year it would also mean I could still win all four Slams in a row. Then the following month I will be trying to equal Bjorn Borg's record [of five successive Wimbledon titles], so it's going to be a very interesting summer for me.

"Hopefully the time off after Miami should be an important part of making sure I'm absolutely ready for the next tough 12 weeks."