The 20-time Grand Slam victor has not played on the red clay in the Foro Italico since 2015 when he finished runner-up for the fourth time, losing to Novak Djokovic in the final. He hoped that Federer's participation in the event would excite additional interest and lead to a good atmosphere an better turnout.
Tournament organizers made the announcement a day after Serena opened her clay-court season with a straight-sets win over Swedish qualifier Rebecca Peterson. I'm happy also that the decision I took last, I guess around December, when I started feeling like I definitely want to do the clay, that it was the right decision, you know, because I haven't looked back at the clay-court build-up yet, or everything that I have been doing, like maybe I shouldn't have.
It was a ideal storm, so to speak, because almost all the tournament's top draws-Roger Federer, Naomi Osaka, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, to name a few-were scheduled to begin their tournaments on Wednesday.
"Regardless of what happens here, I just think it's good for me to play matches at this stage".
I think we were looking in that very moment at players that were not in a tournament or who have just lost at a tournament.
"I have other problems first getting there", said Federer, who could meet the Spaniard in the semi-finals. Federer is in the same half of the draw as eight-time Rome champion Rafael Nadal. "My excitement couldn't be bigger".
"I thought Stefanos was very impressive against him (Nadal) last week", continued Federer. "I'm happy to see that it is the way it is, to be quite honest".
Federer is a four-time runner-up at the Italian Open, which he's never won, making it one of the few significant trophies he hasn't claimed.