For Roger Federer, who is playing here for the first time since 2011, there is no one particular memory of Rogers Cup in Montréal that stands out.
By his own admission, his best performances did not come here. He lost in the third round in 2011, the quarterfinals in 2009 and the final in 2007.
But there is one event that Federer will always associate with Rogers Cup in Montréal for the rest of his life: the birth of his first children.
“Before 2010, I remember the Djokovic match [2007 final], a couple of other matches but, for the rest, it’s a bit of a blur to be honest,” he says. “The most important one was when I came in 2009. My girls were two weeks old. It was our first trip. We just got the passports and travelled here. I remember we had an unbelievable time. I was trying to be a dad for the first time, was all out of control in the nicest possible way and it was here in Montréal. So forever, Montréal will be special to me. This year, I’m here without the family so it’ll be a bit more quiet. I’m going to try and focus on playing and resting and sleeping while I can before I see them all again next week.”
This year, the 35-year-old (Federer turns 36 on Tuesday) elected to skip the clay events to focus on his grass court prep. The decision paid off when he won the title in Halle and then went on to lift his eighth Wimbledon cup.
For over a year, Federer has been increasingly selective when choosing the tournaments he competes in. So why Montréal after a six-year absence? “I think I made up my mind about six days ago,” he explained. “I wanted to keep the door open and see at the last minute how I felt after my holidays. When I started training again and saw that I was in good shape, it didn’t take me too much time to find my rhythm. I always want to play more during the second half of the season. I also think that the first six months of the year were positive because I wasn’t injured, I’m in good health and I didn’t spend too much energy even though I played a lot of matches. So I figured that I had trained enough in the past year and that if I was feeling healthy, I would rather play matches than train.”
At today’s media gathering, an Italian journalist raised an interesting detail that local reporters were not aware of: at the 2015 Masters 1000 in Rome, Federer revealed on Italian television that after Centre Court at the All England Club, Uniprix Stadium was his favourite venue in the world. Quite a compliment coming from one of the greatest grass court players of all time.
“What I see here is a soul in the tournament,” he said. “I see a soul on Centre Court. I know the stadium has been around for a while and I like that. The fact that it’s not totally symmetrical as well makes it unique because all the courts are usually either a box or a circle, all the same. I feel like this one is not and I like that. I think the crowds are always good, it’s pretty full all the time. They have day and night sessions too, which is pretty nice, and I think you can sense great energy here in town in Montréal. They’re very excited that tennis is back, they only have this one tournament a year and I feel like the fans make the most of it. I feel it’s a great center court. That’s why I hope to stick around for a bit.”