Roger Federer battled into the French Open fourth round after a tense four-set victory over Dominik Koepfer in a tie played inside an eerily-empty stadium and which finished at 12:42 am (Paris time) on Sunday morning.
Federer, the 2009 champion and probably taking part in his last Roland Garros after a career stretching into its fourth decade, will be in the second week in Paris for the 15th time.
Also read: The very human Roger Federer
His knife-edge 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/4), 7-5 win over the 59th-ranked German took place at a Court Philippe Chatrier devoid of fans and atmosphere due to a government-enforced Covid-19 curfew.
Federer, however, could pull out of what is probably his final French Open on Sunday to rest up before Wimbledon.
“I don’t know if I am going to play,” said Federer, who is just two months shy of his 40th birthday and is due to play Italy’s Matteo Berrettini in Monday’s fourth round.
“I have to decide whether or not to continue playing. Is it too risky to keep putting pressure on the knee? Is it a good time to rest?”
Here’s a look at five of his most memorable matches at Roland Garros since his debut in 1999:
2009 Final v Robin Soderling
With Rafael Nadal having been knocked out of the tournament by Soderling in the fourth round in what was the Spaniard’s first ever defeat in Paris, the path was clear for Federer to complete the career Grand Slam.
His 6-1, 7-6, 6-4 victory gave Federer a 14th major title and allowed him to become just the third man to complete the sweep of all four majors.
It was an emotional triumph for a man who had lost to Nadal in the previous three finals at Roland Garros.
2009 Fourth round v Tommy Haas
The Swiss star almost never made it to the final having to come from two sets down to beat Germany’s Haas, a close friend, 6-7, 5-7, 6-4, 6-0, 6-2.
“Tommy played a great match, I struggled to get into the encounter,” said Federer who crucially had saved a break point at 3-4 down in the third set with a crunching, nerveless forehand winner.
Haas admitted: “You just have to tip your hat and say when you go for it and you’re rewarded like that, that’s too good.”
2011 Semi-final v Novak Djokovic
Federer ended Djokovic’s 43-match winning run and set up another meeting with Nadal in the final.
Federer, by now on 16 majors, won 7-6, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6.
“I was just trying to put in a good match and get to the French Open final, which I’m obviously happy I was able to do. It almost feels like I’ve won the tournament, which is not the case,” said Federer.
The match finished in the gloom at almost 9:45pm.
“I think I played well but he played really well at the important moments. I congratulate him for a great performance. We were, I think, part of a very good match,” said Djokovic.
2009 Semi-final v Juan Martin del Potro
Proving that his path to the 2009 title was anything but easy, Federer again needed five sets to defeat giant Argentine Del Potro 3-6, 7-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4.
“I am a bit lucky but I fought - Juan Martin was playing really well,” said Federer.
For Del Potro, it was a sixth loss in six meetings with Federer although he was to gain revenge later that year when he defeated the Swiss for his one and only major win at the US Open.
“The match escaped me. I really wanted to be in that final, and now I’m going to have to watch it on TV,” said Del Potro.
2006 Final v Rafael Nadal
Not a classic, but this was the first final between the two in Paris. Nadal defended his title with a 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 win as he ended Federer’s hopes of joining Don Budge and Rod Laver as the only men to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time.
“This is a fantastic victory and an incredible moment in my career,” said Nadal after notching up a 60th consecutive win on clay.
“Federer is the best player in history, no other player has ever had such quality.”
Federer hailed the Spaniard. “He truly deserves to win,” he said.
Inputs from AFP
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