Roger Federer to play in Rome as he steps up French Open preparations

Charlie Eccleshare
Roger Federer has a second Roland Garros title in his sights - AFP
Roger Federer has a second Roland Garros title in his sights - AFP

Roger Federer has served notice of his intentions for the French Open by opting to play in next week's Italian Open. 

Having initially said he would only play in Madrid prior to Roland Garros, Federer confirmed on Saturday that he will be stepping up his preparations for Paris. 

The decision suggests Federer believes he has a serious chance of winning the French Open, a decade after his only title there. He may have lost in the Madrid Open quarter-finals on Friday to Dominic Thiem, but he twice held match point and for a set and a half was dominant against a player considered by most experts to be the third favourite for Roland Garros after Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. 

Earlier in the week, Federer adapted well to his first clay-court tournament in three years with wins over the French pair Richard Gasquet and Gael Monfils. 

After skipping the clay swing entirely in 2017 and 2018, it seems Federer is not only looking to keep himself match-sharp for the grass-court season but hoping to win what would be a 21st grand-slam title in Paris. 

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Explaining his decision to return to Rome for the first time since 2016, Federer said on Instagram: "I've just finished speaking to the team and happy to say that I'm coming back to Rome to play in Italy. I can't wait. So exciting, it's been too long, I'll see you there. Ciao tutti. Bye, bye."

Federer will be given a bye into the second round, where he will play either Joao Sousa of Portugal or American rising star Frances Tiafoe. A possible semi-final against Nadal could then await. 

The Madrid Open meanwhile continues on Saturday with semi-finals between Djokovic and Thiem, and Nadal and Stefanos Tsitsipas. In the women's final, French Open champion Simona Halep is up against clay-court specialist Kiki Bertens.