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How Federer Can Define Success At Roland Garros

By Richard Pagliaro

Fans waved a crimson "Federer Forever" banner as Roger Federer walked out onto for his 2019 Roland Garos return.

Federer fans carry an emotional eternal flame for their favorite.

Federer: One Last Huge Opportunity

The 39-year-old Swiss is a bit more pragmatic about playing his 19th French Open this month.

"I think when you've played so little and you know where your level is at—I think you saw that today—how can I think of winning the French Open?” Federer said after his three-set loss to Pablo Andujar in Geneva last week. “So the moment you know you are not going to win the French Open it can't be your goal, at least at my level.

"I'm just realistic that I know I will not win the French and whoever thought I could or would win it is wrong."

Given Federer has played just three matches this season and only one clay-court match since his run to the 2019 Roland Garos semifinals, Fed fans should focus on the quality of his performances in Paris rather than the quantity of wins he can produce, Hall of Famer Jim Courier says. 

In a conference call with the media today to promote Tennis Channel's Roland Garros coverage, which starts on Sunday at 5 a.m. Eastern Time, TC analyst Courier said Federer's court coverage, closing skills and physical recovery playing best-of-five-set matches for the first time in 16 months will provide insight into his level and confidence ahead of grass season.

"The movement, how is he holding up in the corners. Is he able to get to the shots as easily and effortlessly as he did in the past. What do those two knee surgeries do?" Courier told Tennis Now. "Maybe best-of-five will give us a little bit more data to look at than best-of-three as he fatigues in a match, which everyone does. How does he hold up?

"Then how does he bounce back. I think there will be a lot to glean."

While Federer will be eager to shed the rust and get his feet dirty on red clay, a surface he grew up playing on, Courier suggests the terre battue can be a barometer for the eight-time Wimbledon winner's grass-court game.

To that end, four-time Slam champion Courier suggests an early exit in Paris actually could prove productive in Federer's grass-court preparation. 

"[Former Federer coach] Paul Annacone and I were chatting about this yesterday, realistic goals for Roger going into Wimbledon, which we all know is his target, and he said so," Courier said. "If he can win one or two matches at Roland Garros, it may not be the worst thing for him to lose in the second or third round, get a couple of matches, more information on where he is physically, then go on to the grass. I presume he's playing in Halle.

"Hopefully get two or three matches there. He has kind of five matches or so in his belt before Wimbledon. I think he'd have a pretty good feel of what he's capable of. You hope along the way he settles into being able to close out matches like he always has, which is challenging in his last match on the clay the other week. He talked openly about that. That's something that even the great ones have to kind of remember how to do it."

Nearly two years after Federer held a couple of championship points before bowing to rival Novak Djokovic in the 2019 Wimbledon final, clay can serve as a compass for the Swiss moving forward.

"I would imagine he'll figure that piece out between now and Wimbledon. That's the big lens for him," Courier said. "That's I think the lens that I'm going to be looking at, is how does this point him directionally for Wimbledon."

Photo credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/Getty