The Italian Open played at the clay courts of Rome kicked of last weekend. There is something spectacular about Rome which keeps the tennis fans excited. The tournament now into its 86th year has a sense of vintage attached to it. Unlike the grass courts of the All England club which have an elitist tradition the red clay court of Rome have a tradition but that of a commoner.
They don’t have corporate boxes but have open courts with marble benches, where you have vendors moving up and down selling food and drinks.
The crowd is not fashionable but casually dressed in tees and shorts they are loud, they intimidate the players yet act as the driving force when they get behind you.
It can get unnerving at times for players as the crowd leans into the tennis court as the ball is played.The tennis tournament is reminiscence of the Roman fighting pits where Gladiators have been replaced by players and weapons by tennis rackets but the intensity of the crowd remains the same.
The clay courts of the Italian Open have not been a happy hunting ground from the Swiss master he has till now always come short of winning it. He has been second bested four times in the finals since 2003. Even after a long career full of records and accomplishments the clays of Rome remains one of those elusive crowns that the King of tennis is yet to conquer. And it doesn’t seem likely that it will happen this year either.
After his 2nd round win over Alexander Zverev, 6-3, 7-5 in straight sets, what he said in the post-match press conference surprised many. It was very unlike of him, as per him the victory was a surprise as he had expected to lose in straight sets and even he was not certain that whether he would have played the match.
The reason for this shocking statement has been that Federer is going through a tough phase, to quote him it have been a “brutal” time for him, after the Australian Open final he had a knee surgery, after recovering from that he had to withdrew from Miami with a stomach virus and then returned in Monte Carlo only to lose to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals and then again had to pull out of the Madrid Open due to back problems.
So he is taking “baby-steps” and taking each match as it comes with the main focus to be fit before the French Open. As things stand this year too, the Rome masters and its egalitarian crowd will remain unconquered by Federer.