Federer more certain of clay level but sees room for improvement
Roger Federer feels more certainty about his game on clay after reaching the fourth round of the French Open but acknowledged he can still improve.
The 20-time major winner overcame Casper Ruud 6-3 6-1 7-6 (10-8) on Court Suzanne-Lenglen on Friday, his third straight-sets victory in succession in his first appearance at Roland Garros since 2015.
Federer missed the 2016 French Open due to back and knee issues and opted to skip the clay-court swing the following two years to focus his attention on the grass and hard surfaces.
After three years off the red dirt the Swiss reached the quarter-finals in Madrid and Rome prior to his arrival in Paris, and with the same stage in sight again he is feeling confident ahead of an encounter with Leonardo Mayer.
"I'm very happy. A few months ago, I didn't know what to expect with anything, really. At this point, now I know where my level's at," said Federer.
"I still don't know exactly where my absolute best is, but I feel like it could be there. Maybe not, you know. I'm happy to find out either way.
"So I'm happy I'm putting myself in a position like this in a fourth round of the French Open after not having played so many years here. I think for me the first goal has been reached by getting this deep into the tournament, and knowing where the game's at, knowing where the fitness is, the mind.
"Also playing a tie-break on clay [against Ruud], how to go through tougher points on clay, because you have to construct them a little bit differently than on the hard courts or on the grass.
"I'm very pleased with how I'm feeling and how I'm playing, and still trying to stay true to playing freely and with nothing to lose, even though I know I will be the favourite in the next match. But regardless, I'm going to try to play as free as I can."
The meeting with the 20-year-old Ruud was Federer's 400th grand slam singles match, making him the first player to reach the milestone.
Asked if the landmark impressed him, Federer responded: "Well, it is impressive, but I didn't know, and this answers the question probably.
"It's true I played many matches in grand slam tournaments, and it's even more pleasant to do this in Roland Garros, because I have a lot of records from Wimbledon or the US Open.
"But doing anything in Roland is very special, because I played a lot here. It was my first grand slam where I was in the main draw."