Roger Federer became entangled in a rare running dispute with a chair umpire on Thursday but safely secured his place in the French Open last 32 before admitting he felt “new” to the tour.
Federer saw off Marin Cilic for the 10th time in 11 meetings, winning 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 but only after a second set bust-up with umpire Emmanuel Joseph.
The 20-time Grand Slam title winner was handed a time violation at 1-3 down for taking too long between points. “I don’t even dare to go my towel anymore,” he said to Joseph.
Federer, the oldest man in the draw at 39, lost his cool and the set before recovering to defeat former world number three Cilic.
The Swiss legend is playing just his third tournament since losing in the Australian Open semi-finals to Novak Djokovic in 2020. In between, he underwent two knee surgeries while the pandemic saw new rules introduced – including players, rather than ball boys, having to fetch their towels.
“I just feel like it was a misunderstanding on many levels, I guess I’m just “new” to the new tour,” said Federer.
His flashpoint with the umpire came while he was receiving serve with the laws of the game insisting the receiver play to the speed of the server.
“I didn’t feel like I was playing particularly slow, and with the towels, quite honestly, if I want to go to the towel, now I can’t go to the towel anymore, it’s okay, I get it.
“I understand playing to the server’s pace, I have done it in hundreds of matches, and I always feel like I don’t make my opponent wait very much, but clearly Marin wanted to go faster.”
Federer, the 2009 champion in Paris, hit 47 winners in his victory on Thursday. “It shows me that I still have something in the tank, it’s super important for confidence.”
Former US Open winner Cilic was also handed a time warning late in the third set.
Playing in only his second French Open since 2015, Federer goes on to face Germany’s 59th-ranked Dominik Koepfer for a place in the last 16. Federer has now reached the last 32 in Paris for a 16th year after making his debut in 1999.
Seeded eight this year, he is drawn to face Djokovic in the quarter-finals.
Koepfer was one of three German men to make the last 32 on Thursday after Jan-Lennard Struff and 37-year-old Philipp Kohlschreiber. Koepfer is in the last 32 in Paris for the first time but came out of qualifying to reach the fourth round of the US Open in 2019.
On Thursday, he knocked out 30th-seeded Taylor Fritz of the United States 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.
Federer also spoke about (in the video below) about the importance of a support system and what it takes to be in a good space on the tour:
(Text inputs from AFP)