ROME. — Roger Federer made a smart decision by pulling out of this month’s French Open tennis tournament where he has less chance of adding to his 18 grand slam titles than on the sport’s quicker surfaces, world number two Novak Djokovic said yesterday.
Federer, who announced his withdrawal from the May 28-June 11 claycourt major on Monday, said he felt he needed to avoid playing on clay this season to help prolong his career.
“You know, he’s very smart in his decision-making . . . He knows what he’s doing,” 12-times major winner Djokovic told reporters.
“Of course he’s aware he has much better chance to win big trophies on quicker surfaces.”
Federer defied age and logic to win the Australian Open in January after a knee injury kept him out of tennis for six months, and followed that up with two more high-profile titles at Indian Wells and Miami.
The 35-year-old, fifth-ranked Swiss is now focused on being in top form for Wimbledon, which begins on July 3 and where he is a seven-times champion.
“Grass obviously is where he feels the most comfortable,” Djokovic said.
“I’m not too surprised with this (French Open) decision. I mean, he had a lot of matches played at the beginning of the year, and he did amazingly well.”
Djokovic faced Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in the last-16 of the Italian Open yesterday.
Meanwhile, British number one Johanna Konta lost to Venus Williams in the last 16 of the Italian Open in Rome yesterday.
The 26-year-old world number six recovered from a set down to level but American Williams (36) dominated the final set to win 6-1, 3-6, 6-1.
Williams, who has won seven Grand Slam singles titles, faces Julia Gorges or Garbine Muguruza in the quarter-finals. Konta had reached the third round with a straight-set win over Yulia Putintseva after a first-round bye.
The fifth seed had won her past three encounters with Williams, but the veteran controlled proceedings from the baseline, taking the first set in just over half an hour.
Konta rallied and won three straight games to claim the second set but Williams responded with another double break in the third to secure victory.
Elsewhere, Estonian qualifier Anett Kontaveit backed up her shock win over world number one Angelique Kerber on Wednesday by beating 16th-seed Croatian Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-1, 6-1.
Kontaveit will face sixth seed Simona Halep in the quarter-finals, after the Romanian beat Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 4-6, 6-0, while unseeded Daria Gavrilova stunned Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 to reach the last eight. In the men’s draw, Germany’s Alexander Zverev secured a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Italy’s Fabio Fognini,who beat world number one Andy Murray in round two. — Reuters.