Federer's Madrid Masters Preview
The Challenge Starts Early
Roger Federer enters his second clay tournament of the season and the challenge could not be bigger. Last year he reached the final only to lose to Nadal in straight sets although it was very close - 6-4, 7-6(5). Because he reached the finals last year, Federer will have 600 points of his own rankings to defend which means he must at least reach the finals to keep them.
For Federer, the first challenge will present itself immediately. Receiving a first round bye, he will play the winner of the first round between Milos Raonic and Feliciano Lopez. Raonic may be doubtful to play as he pulled out of his semi-final match with Fernando Verdasco in the Estoril tournament in Portugal. Feliciano Lopez is fresh off the Serbian Open where he finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic.
If Federer passes the second round, Verdasco or Xavier Malisse will be waiting for him. He has convincing wins against both players. Lurking in the quarter-finals, a potential match up with Jo-Wilfred Tsonga or Robin Soderling. Federer has dominated Tsonga, losing only once to him on clay however, a healthy Robin Soderling could give the Swiss Maestro plenty to worry about.
Should Federer surpass all these obstacles, it is most certain that Rafael Nadal will meet him in the semi-finals. Since Federer has dropped to world number three ranking, many of the tournaments will now have him face off in Nadal's side of the draw.
Federer has had over two weeks to work on his game and he spent the last week getting acclimatized to the high altitude of Madrid. The conditions will slightly favor Federer's game as the conditions allow for greater ball speed and thus a greater success for execution of quick points.
He has only managed to defeat Nadal twice on the clay courts and both times he faced an exhausted Nadal. This year, Federer cannot rely on Djokovic to do him any favors battling Nadal since he (Djokovic) is on the other side of the draw.
The Madrid Masters comes ahead of the Rome Masters and Roland Garros. Both Madrid and Rome will allow Federer to gauge how fluent his game will be against most notably Nadal and Djokovic ahead of the French Open.