Roger Federer was yesterday to decide the fate of his French Open career, which has stretched over four decades, as the 39-year-old contemplated whether to rest his weary bones for an assault on his primary objective, a ninth Wimbledon title.
The 20-time Grand Slam title winner — who is to turn 40 in two months’ time — battled more than three-and-a-half hours until 12:45 yesterday morning to reach the last 16 in Paris.
Today, he is due back on the court to tackle Matteo Berrettini for a place in the quarter-finals.
However, having undergone two knee surgeries last year, the Swiss star said that he has doubts that he would make it.
“I don’t know if I am going to play,” Federer said. “I have to decide whether or not to continue. Is it too risky to keep putting pressure on the knee? Is it a good time to rest?”
“Every match I have to reassess the situation, and see the next morning in what state I wake up and how my knee is doing,” he added. “It may be even more true after a match as long as the one tonight.”
If his knife-edge 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/4), 7-5 win over 59th-ranked Dominik Koepfer was his last match in Paris, it is to be remembered as a gripping affair on the court, but soulless in the stands.
Due to a government-imposed COVID-19 curfew, Court Philippe Chatrier was devoid of fans and atmosphere.
Federer is playing only his third tournament since last year’s Australian Open and has always said that Wimbledon is his main goal.
He is chasing a ninth title at Wimbledon, which starts on June 28. He is also scheduled to play the warmup grass-court tournament in Halle beginning on June 14, the day after the French Open ends.
Federer, who made his Roland Garros debut in 1999 and was champion in 2009, was playing a night session for the first time.
However, the almost empty 15,000-capacity court was silent.
“I might have been more nervous if the stadium had been full,” Federer said. “All the matches I’ve played since the injury are information for the rest of the season.”
“It gives me real pleasure to be able to play 3 hours, 30 minutes at a high level against a very good player,” Federer added. “It shows that I’m on the right track.”
Naomi Osaka on Saturday thanked her fans for their support after the four-time Grand Slam champion earlier this week withdrew from the French Open, citing mental health issues.
The Japanese player initially said that she would not attend the tournament’s mandatory post-match press conferences, which she said put undue pressure on players.
The 23-year-old world No. 2 later announced that she would not compete at all and revealed she had been experiencing bouts of depression for several years, leading to an outpouring of support.
“Just want to thank you for all the love,” she wrote in an Instagram story. “Haven’t been on my phone much, but I wanted to hop on here and tell you all that I really appreciate it.”
The International Tennis Federation has promised a comprehensive review on how players and media interact during tournaments, saying that it takes mental health issues seriously.
It is unclear whether Osaka is to return to the game in time for Wimbledon, which begins later this month.
In mixed doubles play at Roland Garros on Saturday, Ken Skupski of Britain and Chile’s Alexa Guarachi Mathison defeated Taiwan’s Chan Hao-ching and Australia’s John Peers 6-4, 1-6, 10-5.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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