Roger Federer is considering pulling out of Roland Garros despite a gritty four-set victory over Dominik Koepfer, which could ultimately be the Swiss master’s final game in Paris.
In a match that lasted four hours and finished in the early hours of the morning in front of an empty stadium, the 39-year-old struggled at times and even looked as though he was finished during some points but managed to push through and qualify to the Round of 16. He said after the match he is now considering withdrawing from the tournament.
“I need to decide if I keep on playing or not, or if this if this is perfect way [to end],” he told reporters.
“Every match here or Geneva I have to reassess the situation after the match and see in the morning how I wake up and how does the knee feel the next morning. So from that standpoint it always goes like that. There is no difference after a match like this.
When asked what inspired him to solider on and eventually claim the unlikely victory, Federer said:
“(I was) thinking of all the people watching on TV. I was really picturing a lot of people on a Saturday night checking in on the game and watching some tennis. So in many ways, I was also playing for them and trying to let that inspire me.”
Federer, who’s two months shy of his 40th birthday, is due to play Italy’s Matteo Berrettini in Monday night’s fourth round. If he beats the Italian, a quarter-final showdown with Novak Djokovic likely awaits.
The 20-time Grand Slam title winner is playing only his third tournament since last year’s Australian Open after undergoing two knee surgeries in 2020 and has always said Wimbledon is his main goal this year, which begins on June 28.
The tennis great is scheduled to play the warm-up grass court tournament in Halle beginning on June 14, the day after the French Open ends.
Federer’s comments divided fans on social media, former US player Patrick McEnroe declared:
“I don’t like it all that @rogerfederer is already saying he may not play next match @rolandgarros.”
Others defended Federer for openly discussing his thought process around his plans while also highlighting his contribution to the sport and how that gives him licence to pull out if he needs to. If the former world No.1 does pull out he’ll join Naomi Osaka and Ash Barty as the other big names to exit prematurely.
Fans also expressed frustration that Federer may have played his last game in France in an-empty Court Philippe Chatrier without spectators due to a government-imposed Covid-19 curfew.
The decision to play night sessions has been under fire after the French Tennis Federation signed a three-year contract with Amazon Prime Video to play top rated matches at night on the streaming platform.
However, local restrictions earlier this week resulted in fans being forced out of stadiums in the middle of matches to beat the 9pm curfew, leaving top games like Federer’s to be played in front of empty stadiums.
5,000 spectators will be able to to attend the first men’s quarter-final when restrictions lift on June 9, but it will be the only night match out of a possible ten evening sessions to feature crowds in attendance.
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