Following the first Masters 1000 quarter-final in Miami 2001, the 19-year-old Roger Federer notched another a couple of weeks later in Monte Carlo, competing in the Principality for the third time. The young Swiss had failed to win a match in Monte Carlo in 1999 and 2000, changing that two decades ago with a 6-4, 6-3 triumph over a former Roland Garros champion Michael Chang in an hour and 25 minutes. Roger fended off ten out of 13 break chances and gained five breaks from ten opportunities, trailing 3-1, 40-30 in the opener before turning the tables around and winning four straight points on the return at 5-4 to claim the opener and gain momentum.
The Swiss controlled the pace in set number two and sealed the deal with a forehand drive&volley winner at 5-3 to move into the second round and earn the first Masters 1000 victory on clay. Roger’s most notable performances up to that point came on the fast indoor surface, but the Swiss was confident about his skills on clay, saying the results on the slowest surface should come in the upcoming years. Roger claimed the first Masters 1000 title on clay in Hamburg 2002 and reached the Roland Garros final for four straight years between 2006-2009. After losing to Rafael Nadal for four straight years in Paris, Roger finally went all the way in 2009, winning the title and completing a Career Grand Slam.
Roger Federer spoke about his clay abilities in Monte Carlo 2001.
“Yes, that’s correct; it was my first victory in Monte Carlo from the third attempt. My results are way better on other surfaces, but my best Major finish came at the French Open last year. I believe I’m a good clay-courter; I’m not worried about my career on the slowest surface. The opening set was a tough one for me. There was a lot of fighting because I didn’t feel good on the court; it’s excellent to win matches like this on clay. I’m thrilled to be through to the second round because I can gain confidence very quickly on this surface, especially after a winning start. During winters, I used to practice on indoor clay in a balloon, and overall, I played a lot on the slowest surface. I don’t know why my clay-court career started so badly. I went to the Swiss National Tennis Center at the age of 14 and started playing on a fast indoor court; maybe that’s why. The season has started well with that title in Milan and the Davis Cup victory over the USA.
I kept playing well like over the months; that’s why I won my February award for the best player. Last year, I finished pretty well on clay, losing to Corretja at Roland Garros and Gstaad. I felt I was playing better and better, and this year I want to embrace consistency at the events before Roland Garros. The grass season was a bit disappointing for me last year; I have to fix that too. After winning the junior Wimbledon, I think I can play well on grass. I still have to improve my serve and volley game, and then I should be fine. In the summer, I want to continue playing well as I did at the beginning of the year. The more matches you play, the more experience you get; for me, this year started well. The Hopman Cup was also critical, playing alongside Martina, seeing how she is doing and acting. I felt like I couldn’t finish the point at the beginning of the match today; I was probably not playing the right way and too flat.
I should have played maybe more the angles and made him run, finishing the points at the net. That started to come at the end of the first and beginning of the second set; I enjoyed the match, and you could see it. I played drop shots, which I don’t do too often, seeking different things on the court while trying not to let the match slip away. In Neuchatel, I hit the ball well. Last year I prepared differently, staying in Miami and playing the final on clay. After that, I lost too tight matches in Monte Carlo and Rome that I could have won. Let’s say that I have to change my game on clay; it’s clear. It’s a good point that I’m able to slide and move as I want. I also put more effort into my shots and stay more on the baseline. My serve in practice wasn’t going very well; I have to concentrate on this because it’s not easy to make winners on this surface. I think I should be more consistent because I made too many easy errors; I have to improve that,” Roger Federer said.