Roger Federer will play a Frenchman for the second match running in his return to clay. After a comfortable time in his opener, he will be tested far more sternly by Gael Monfils. He does lead the head to head 9-4 against Monfils but has lost two of the last three matches, including the Davis Cup final back in 2014.
With a colossal lead in the head to head against Richard Gasquet, there was little doubt that Federer would win once more – especially against an opponent with little match time behind him this year. He proved unbreakable in the 6-2 6-3 win, denying his opponent a single break opportunity in their 52 minutes on court. “I’m very happy to be back on clay. Super happy to be back here in Madrid. The crowds and the ovation I got before and after the game were great.” he said. “I didn’t think Richard was at his best, far off. But from my side, it was a good match.”
Monfils started slowly against Marton Fucsovics before defeating the Hungarian in three sets, 1-6 6-4 6-2. He has squeezed into the top 16 of the live rankings, something that could prove important in a few weeks in Paris. He will have been disappointed with his Estoril loss to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina but has bounced back with two strong wins this week.
With three grand slams in 2017 and 2018, it’s hard to deny that forgoing the clay season has been a huge positive for Federer. However, it shouldn’t take long for him to get back in the swing of things but there are tougher matches to come. Should he advance, the winner will play either Dominic Thiem or Fabio Fognini. If there’s a clay court tournament that suits Federer, it is this one – something he recognises. “I think here in Madrid you can definitely come in with a hard court mindset, to some extent. Take the ball on and it’s easier to stay in the sets just because you can serve your way out of trouble.”
Prediction – Roger Federer in straight sets