One moment in Roger Federer's first clay match in 3 years shows how wrong he was to fear his return to the soft surface

Photo by Juan Carlos Lucas/NurPhoto via Getty ImagesRoger Federer returns to clay for the first time in 1,090 days.
  • Roger Federer took just 52 minutes to beat Richard Gasquet 6-2, 6-3.
  • Before the 2019 Madrid Open, the 37-year-old said he was low on confidence because it was his first clay-court match in three years.
  • But his domination on Tuesday showed just how wrong he was to have been filled with self-doubt.
  • One shot above all others appears to show how seamless the transition from hard and grass courts to a softer surface really was for Federer.
  • In the first set, he hit Gasquet with a drop shot so outrageous it stopped the Frenchman in his tracks.
  • Watch it below.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Roger Federer just dominated Richard Gasquet in his first tour-level match on clay in three years.

The veteran tennis player, 37, was filled with self-doubt ahead of the Madrid Open. He had not competed in a tour-level match on a soft surface for 1,090 days, said his confidence was “in no man’s land,” and that he will have to “start from scratch.”

But Federer left the 12,500-capacity Manolo Santana Stadium on Tuesday having beaten Gasquet in just 52 minutes, winning on straight sets, and showing how wrong he was to have dreaded his return to clay.

Read more: Roger Federer says he’s ‘not confident’ about returning to clay next week because he’s ‘forgotten how to slide’

During the match, Federer’s serving bamboozled Gasquet because of how varied his shot placement on the court was. He tallied five aces and won 92% of points on his first serve, according to ATP Tour data.

Though it was always comfortable for Federer, winning in straight sets 6-2, 6-3, there was one moment above all others that showed an apparently seamless transition from grass and hard courts to a softer surface.

In the first set, when Federer was leading five games to two, he duped Gasquet with a drop shot that was so outrageous it stopped the Frenchman in his tracks. All Gasquet could do was watch as the ball fizzed away from where it landed, costing him yet another point.

Watch Federer’s drop shot right here:

“It was a good match … it was nice to be back on the clay,”Federer said on the Amazon Prime broadcast after the match. “It’s given me a lift to know I can still play on the surface, I grew up on this surface.”

“It was a special match here in Madrid. It’s been wonderful. In Spain, I’ve been well received over the last decade because of my rivalry with Rafa [Nadal] and other Spanish players. The people know me, have heard me speak, so when I come to their market they appreciate it and so do I,” he added.

Federer will face the winner of tomorrow’s match between Márton Fucsovics and Gaël Monfils in the round of 16 later this week.

He has won the tournament three times in total, two of which were when it changed from a hard to a clay court.

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