A Strange Night, A Very Special Win For Federer

Roger Federer (photo: Jürgen Hasenkopf)

PARIS/WASHINGTON, June 6, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

After Roger Federer completed his remarkable three-hour and 36-minute, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4), 7-5 victory over Dominik Koepfer to reach the round of 16 at Roland Garros at 12:43 a.m. Sunday morning, the Swiss future Hall of Famer raised his arms in victory. The look on his tired face suggested a sense of relief, too.

Sadly, the eighth seed Federer was nearly alone – save for his team of coaches Ivan Ljubicic and Severin Lüthi – to celebrate his triumph inside a very empty Court Philippe-Chatrier due to the current 9 p.m. curfew restriction in Paris, which did not allow for any fans to attend the featured night session match.

“I wasn’t sure after the second set how much was left in the tank, so it was a good battle until then,” said Federer, who is 8-2 in his last 10 matches on clay and extended his career win-loss record at the French Open to 70-15. “I thought [this win] was very important for me. I clearly hadn’t practiced three hours 36 [minutes], because that’s obviously always pushing it. I pushed as much as I could, as we thought reasonable. But this today was I think a huge step forward for the team, and for all of us.”

Federer hit 52 winners – including six aces – and made 66 unforced errors. His serve was broken four times by Koepfer, who finished with 11 aces, 46 winners and committed 43 unforced errors. Federer broke the German’s serve five times in 14 tries. Federer outpointed Koepfer 160-159.

Later, during his post-match press conference, the 39-year-old Federer said he’s not certain he will play in the fourth round against Italy’s Matteo Berrettini on Monday after the No. 9 seed defeated South Korea’s Soonwoo Kwon, 7-6 (6), 6-3, 6-4 to reach the last 16 for the first time. Federer suggested it will depend how his body responds after his grueling third-round match against Koepfer. “I will discuss with the team and go from there. …

“I didn’t expect to be able to win three matches here, and, you know, sort of back up a good performance of Cilic as well in completely different circumstances tonight.”

Federer’s victory against Koepfer advanced him to the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the 68th time, which extended his all-time record for most round of 16 appearances in majors.

“For me to go out tonight, sure, it wasn’t easy,” Federer admitted. “It was a lot of premieres for me: Playing against [Koepfer] for first night session here in Paris, first time no fans in a long, long time, or ever in my career. That was definitely very unique in many ways, and I’m happy I found a way.”

Tennis Channel’s Robinson calling his 24th Roland Garros

Tennis TourTalk caught up with Tennis Channel broadcaster Ted Robinson earlier this week in Paris via email to get his thoughts and impressions on this year’s French Open. First with NBC and now with Tennis Channel, Robinson has been commentating matches at Roland Garros for more than two decades. This year, he’s been paired with Hall of Famer Martina Navratilova calling a variety of early-day matches on Court Philippe-Chatrier and Court Suzanne-Lenglen.

Among Robinson’s early impressions:

“The grounds are improved from last October. Construction on outer courts is complete, thus free passage for the customers. Court Simonne Mathieu is a marvelous addition to the Grand Slam theater. Now in its third year, it is a terrific venue that, sadly, doesn’t receive enough TV coverage,” he said.

“Weather for the first three days has been spectacular, negating the player-whining that highlighted last fall’s Roland Garros. But we all know it will change, perhaps multiple times, before the final Sunday.

“The FFT (French Tennis Federation) deserves credit and praise for conducting two RG’s in eight months without the full ticket revenue that is vital to their business. The effort of all in Paris to sustain is highly admirable.”

Like many, Robinson recognized the “huge imbalances” in both men’s and women’s singles draws. “The failure to move Nadal’s seed could result in a scenario where the quarters and the semis are the true finals. Not a good look.

“If Serena (Williams) is ever to win another RG, this would seem to be the year. The women’s draw is very tilted to the top half. Serena is the only past champion in her half and every viable roadblock for her landed in the other half.”

Saturday’s Roland Garros results 

Sunday’s Roland Garros order of play

The Sweet 16s

“Quotable …”

“Me and Jannik, I think we are the future of Italian tennis, and of the tennis in general.

“Yeah, of course he’s a bit forward than me. Yeah, I don’t know, I’m just living what he was living like last year. So, we are growing up together. We are playing every week now together. I finally enter into the tour. That was my goal.

“But I have to focus on myself. Of course, I see and I’m happy for Jannik is going well. But of course, I have to see myself. I have to improve myself. Of course, I’m really proud and happy that Jannik is still winning and is still going forward in the Slams and is one of the best in the race.

“Yeah, I think he deserves it, and I think we will have a lot of time together in the future. I’m happy about that.”

Lorenzo Musetti of Italy, who beat fellow Italian Marco Cecchinato, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to advance to the fourth round. He will play World No. 1 and top seed Novak Djokovic in the next round.

“For me, the biggest thing I was just focusing on my end of the court. You know, you never want to see a player hurt, especially someone that you know pretty well. …

“But you have to remember this is a match, too, and if they are still on the court competing, they’re going to give it their all regardless if they are hurt or not.”

Coco Gauff, who advanced to the fourth round by retirement over Jennifer Brady after winning the first set 6-1.