Roger Federer said Dominic Thiem was right to be angry at being kicked out of his own press conference so that Roland Garros organisers could accommodate a defeated Serena Williams.
Austria’s Thiem, the fourth seed in the men’s event and the 2018 runner-up, was conducting his post-match press obligations after reaching the last 16 on Saturday.
However, he was then informed that the main interview room was needed by American superstar Williams who had just suffered a third round loss to Sofia Kenin.
It was the 23-time Grand Slam title winner’s earliest exit at a Slam in almost five years and she was eager to be away from the tournament site as quickly as possible.
“It’s a joke,” fumed 25-year-old Thiem to media officers after being told he should finish his interviews in a smaller room.
“I have to leave the room because she’s coming. What the hell, I don’t care. I can also do whatever I want.”
Federer defended Thiem, describing him as “a superstar, a male superstar”.
“I think the one who is still in the tournament gets priority, that’s how I see it,” said Federer after easing past Leonardo Mayer to reach his 54th quarter-final at the majors.
“There must have been a misunderstanding or maybe they should have kept Serena still in the locker room, not waiting here in the press centre.
“I don’t know exactly what happened. I understand Dominic’s frustration. I don’t think he’s mad at Serena or anybody. I just think it was an unfortunate situation.”
There was no indication as to who had decided to shift Thiem mid-flow on Saturday night.
However, French sports daily L’Equipe claimed that Williams had no preference over where she carried out her press conference.
“Put me in another room, a smaller one, but now,” she was reported to have said.
With Williams reportedly becoming increasingly impatient, officials looked to rescue the situation by moving Thiem to another room.
“That’s really impolite,” she was heard to say.
Thiem had defeated Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 while Williams was stunned 6-2, 7-5 by Kenin.
There was a backlash on social media over the incident.
“Wait your turn for the press room like everyone else,” tweeted former Australian player Sam Groth.
“Thiem, still in the draw having won, would have agreed to a press time and has a round of 16 match to prepare for, Serena just has her jet on the tarmac!”