The big man R-Fed has released his schedule for next year, and what everyone's talking about is its lack of clay. 'Only two events!' they say. 'Mon dieu! How will he ever be ready in time for Paris! Ca alors!'
Me... well, I think back to 2006. That was arguably Roger's best showing at Paris - ie. the tightest final he gave Rafa, possibly in competition with 2007 - and he played exactly two tournaments before Roland Garros: Monte Carlo and Rome. (God, who can forget that Rome final in 2006? That was possibly the most intense tennis match I have ever seen: Roger and Rafa's greatest match up outside Wimbledon this year. And then they made Masters Series finals three sets. Yeah, that was smart. Cough cough.) This year he played a crushing clay season - four tournaments - and got crushed in the final in return. So why not return to the old ways? I think it's terribly clever. Let us not forget that Roger will be looking for his fourteenth - or, probably, his fifteenth - Slam at Roland Garros. I think he's very clever.
I'd be more worried about Rafa's schedule, to tell the truth. With all his knee problems, will he continue to play four clay tournaments? Kid's gotta cut back, or he'll be retiring before Roger even begins thinking about it.
And is anyone else thinking that this tournament in Abu Dhabi kind of looks like fun? I'm unsure why so many people have agreed to play it - Roger's pre-Australian Open schedule is looking chockas, what with that and Doha and Kooyong - but it's going to be a cracker of an exhibition tournament. Everyone who's anyone will be there - just what I like to see. Kind of like a mini Masters Cup: only this time I reckon the real Master will come out on top. I have a good feeling about Federer's 2009 - a kind of quiet confidence. Grand Slam ahoy!