Federer relishes chance to play in ‘beautiful’ Istanbul

2015-04-29 00:00

IT’S not often that Roger Federer gets to play in a new country, and 24 hours into his visit to Turkey, the city of Istanbul has met his ­expectations.

“I’ve heard a lot of great things about Istanbul and the country; I’ve always wanted to come visit,” he said, ahead of the inaugural TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open.

“I saw the pictures before I came here and I was hoping it was going to be like this, so I’m happy it’s as pretty as it is and I’m really enjoying myself. I hope it’s going to be a nice long week and I hope it’s a lot of matches and I stay here as long as possible.”

Federer is aiming to win his 11th clay-court title this week in Istanbul, before he heads to back-to-back ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments in Madrid and Rome, followed by Roland Garros.

“The French Open clearly is a big goal of mine, but to play well at the French Open I need confidence and I need to play well, and I hope I can pick that up here in Istanbul and really win a lot of matches, preferably win the tournament,” he said. “That’s why I’m here, at the end of the day is to win this.”

He began his clay-court campaign two weeks ago at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, where he lost to Gael Monfils in the third round, and has spent close to a month working on clay.

“It’s about getting used to the sliding and just wanting to decide how aggressive I want to play,” he said. “Clearly I play on hard court for seven to eight months like all the other ­players. It just takes some adjustments. For that, I’m trying to put up as many hours as I can on the clay and I think my game is going to get better and better as we move along.”

Federer expected both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal to be in peak form at Roland Garros, and called them the favourites, despite Nadal’s recent struggles.

“Even though maybe his form is not as good as the previous years, I still believe once the French Open rolls around he’ll be difficult to beat.”

But first, the World No. 2 is focused on his opening assignment this week — playing the winner between Turkey’s Marsel Ilhan and Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen in the second round.

“I really hope I can play against Marsel, even though he’s playing Nieminen, who is a really close friend of mine; I came through the juniors with him,” he said.

“Either way it’s going to be a nice first round, but of course the atmosphere would be quite special if I played Marsel in the first round.”

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