Madrid: Roger Federer vowed to get straight back on the practice court after the world number two was dumped out in the third round of the Madrid Open by Japan's Kei Nishikori on Thursday. Defending champion at the clay Masters event in the Spanish capital, Federer was playing his first tournament after a seven-week rest following defeat to Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals at Indian Wells.
The 31-year-old Swiss is increasingly limiting his appearances as his glittering career draws to an end and is one of only two players in the top 10 along with Czech Tomas Berdych without a title this year. Federer has won 76 tournaments since turning pro in 1998 and with one more he would equal John McEnroe's 77 career titles and join the American in third on the all-time ranking behind Jimmy Connors on 109 and Ivan Lendl with 94.
After his 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 loss to 23-year-old Nishikori, Federer joked it was perhaps time for another seven-week layoff but said he felt like returning to the practice court that afternoon to prepare for next week's Rome Masters. "I've been very successful here, so clearly I'm disappointed and wish I could have done better this week," the former world number one told a news conference.
"I was pretty upbeat after my second-round match [against Radek Stepanek]. I thought I was in the tournament, I was playing pretty well. In practice I was hitting the ball well so this comes as a bit of a disappointment for me. It doesn't change my mindset going forward. I'm going to go back to the practice court, train hard and make sure I don't have these kind of days anymore."
The highlight of the clay season is the French Open starting later this month and Federer said his setback in Madrid, where the conditions are much faster than in Paris, would not affect his preparations.
"We're not playing for the French Open. This is early. We're weeks away from the French Open. It's nice to have the French Open as a tournament on the calendar but not everything is sacrificed for that. For that particular player or for the media or the fans, the French Open is the ultimate thing and the only thing they care about. Then clearly Madrid is the lead-up tournament.
"That's not how I see it. For me, every tournament counts. So I'm as disappointed losing here as the French Open. There is no difference really."