Federer plays on clay court

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The Swiss tennis champion advances to the third round at Monte Carlo.

MONTE CARLO - Roger Federer is taking the good with the bad as he begins another clay court season at the Monte Carlo Masters.

"It's about getting used to the bad bounces," confessed the 13-time Grand Slam champion. "We've been playing on hard court now for nine months, or eight. You never see a bad bounce."

The Swiss got in an early hit Thursday on the one covered court at the Country Club as forecast rain moved in, delaying the start of the third round. Federer was due to play Davis Cup teammate and friend Stan Wawrinka, the 13th seed who he beat in both of their previous ATP meetings.

But any court time is useful for the world number 2 as he transitions from hard court to clay.

"All of a sudden you're a little bit worried, sometimes hitting half-volleys because you know they can bounce onto your frame. You've just got to look for confidence that you find by playing matches and practise a lot.

"As we don't have much practise yet, you're maybe a bit tentative."

Federer fit Monte Carlo into a busy schedule, re-defining new wife Mirka Vavrinec's idea of a honeymoon by playing a big event a few days after their wedding.

The 27-year-old who was married last Saturday in a private ceremony in Basel said he had limited exposure to the dirt so far this spring.

"Maybe nine days ago," he said of his first training session. "Maybe 10 hours."

For the last three years, Federer lost to Rafael Nadal in the final at the principality, just as he's done at the last three Roland Garros editions.

But footing is the key to change.

"It's getting used to the sliding, knowing when to slide, how much to slide," he said of the classic technique.

"And sometimes you slide but you don't have to. This kind of decision-making just happens naturally the more time you spend on the surface.

"It (clay) just feels natural to me because I played so much as a kid. I remember wintertimes I used to play indoor clay, under the balloon in Basel.

"Clay has always basically been my first surface. The sliding and all this comes to me within the first five minutes, then it's just the timing, how much you have to slide. This stuff just comes with time."

AFP / Scott Williams / Expatica

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