Competing in his fourth Masters 1000 event, an 18-year-old Roger Federer lost in the opening round of Monte Carlo Masters on April 17, 2000, to Jiri Novak. The Czech prevailed over the young gun 6-1, 2-6, 7-5 in tough conditions caused by rain, with both players struggling to find the best tennis.
Back in February, Roger was the finalist in Marseille and the quarter-finalist in London on fast indoor surfaces, mastering them nicely but still seeking his A-game on clay, losing in the opening round in Monte Carlo for the second year in a row.
Unable to find the zone in the opening set, Federer sprayed too many errors before changing the racquet in the second that gave him more balance, staying in touch until the closing stages before Novak prevailed with a late break after an hour and 46 minutes, leaving Roger on one Masters 1000 victory.
“After Miami, I went to Houston, playing an exhibition event on clay and practicing for a week and a half. Then I traveled back to Europe, training in Nice with the young Swiss team in the camp before heading to Monte Carlo.
The conditions were harsh but you have to accept them on clay. It was difficult for me and I didn’t have many opportunities to play my usual game. I have absolutely no idea which shots I missed; it is patience I must work on to play on clay.
Sometimes I am surprised myself by the mistakes I make; sometimes, I hit two errors in and a row on easy shots, which is not a common thing in my game. This year I am playing more events on clay than in the previous one when I only entered three.
I know I can play well on clay but I have to improve the physical part of my game and move better. The interruption worked in my favor a little bit, giving me time to think about what I did wrong up to that point. I sent two racquets to be strung with one extra kilogram and started to hit better after that, feeling more comfortable on the court.
I often lose tight matches in the deciding set but the improvements will come with confidence and more tournaments played. After Monte Carlo, I will play Barcelona, Rome, Hamburg, Sant-Polten and Roland Garros.”