Heading to Rome

Heading to Rome

It’s taken me a few days to get over my defeat on Sunday. It’s a tough one to explain: I was in control of the match, leading by a set and a break, but I somehow lost confidence and Mattek-Sands took full advantage.
 
Some defeats hurt more than others and this was one of the more painful ones, especially because it came here at the second biggest clay court event of the season.
 
Despite my disappointment, there was no time to sulk: I stayed in Madrid and trained each day with Darren Cahill of adidas, and my hitting partner Olivier Morel. My strokes and movement are fine – what we have been working on more than anything is maintaining a positive frame of mind and trying to avoid self-doubt.
 
That’s not always easy in tennis, because you are out there on your own and you have no one to depend on but yourself. Unlike in team sports, you can’t “go missing” for even five minutes, because in that time you may have been broken and you’re on your way to losing the match.

But it’s not been all serious business: I discovered that hitting the between-the-legs shot is a lot harder than it looks: the other day in practice I hit my own leg in the process of attempting it, and now I have a nasty bruise!
 
Away from the court I’ve been enjoying some excellent Spanish cuisine. I found time to visit the botanical gardens at Park Retiro, which were very beautiful.
 
I will go to Italy soon. I did well in Rome last year and I hope that I can use those good memories to my advantage next week. It’s an even more important event now that I lost so early here, because there isn’t much time before Roland Garros.
 
Obviously winning Roland Garros and becoming No.1 in the world three years ago is the highlight of my career so far. It’s my favourite tournament and I always look forward to going back.
 
Sure, I didn’t perform well there last year, but the memories of my victory come flooding back as soon as I walk onto Court Philippe Chatrier. Even before that, in fact – returning to a place you have had success in the past is always a special feeling, as you see the same faces again and recall some great experiences.
 
Although I have only played two clay court events – Fed Cup and the Mutua Madrid Open – I’m now used to playing on the surface. The preparation work that you do before your first clay court tournament is designed to give you a good base for the physical challenges ahead.
 
Two of the main areas of training we work on are footwork, because it’s so different on clay, and also strengthening the lower body, which literally gives you a stronger base and allows you to “push off” on your shots.
 
I haven’t yet decided where I’ll train after Rome, or if I’ll enter a tournament. I have a house in Mallorca so that is a nice option, or I could go home to Switzerland, where it’s extremely peaceful.
 
I’m already looking forward to going back to Paris.

The above column was published today in Marca newspaper in Spain