Federer cuts down clay court schedule

Basel, December 3:

Roger Federer will play only two clay-court tournaments in 2009 before the French Open, the only Grand Slam tournament he has never won.

Federer will head to Paris on May 24 after playing Masters series events on his least favourite surface in Rome and Madrid, according to a schedule published on his Web site. Federer played four clay-court events this year ahead of the French Open — Estoril; Monte Carlo; and Hamburg. He lost to Rafael Nadal in the French Open final.

“I am really pleased with the season the way we have planned it and I am looking forward to an exciting year,” Federer said. Federer had a tough 2008 season marred by illness and a back injury. He surrendered his Wimbledon title and No 1 ranking to Nadal, but won the US Open for his 13th Grand Slam title.

Federer’s agent, Tony Godsick, said in October that the Swiss star would play a 2009 schedule “that works for him physically.” “He is not going to overplay next year,” Godsick said. “He is just going to try to make sure that he peaks for the tournaments that mean the most to him.”

Federer has won five US Opens, five Wimbledons and three Australian Opens but never captured the French, where he has lost to Nadal in the final three straight years. Federer will start the year on hard courts at an invitation tournament in Abu Dhabi then play events at Doha, Qatar, and Kooyong, Australia, before the Australian Open starts from January 19 in Melbourne.