Roger Federer entered Roland Garros as his first Major event in almost 500 days, hoping to win a couple of matches and shape his game ahead of beloved grass swing. The Swiss veteran entered only the fourth tournament since the last year's Australian Open, struggling with a knee injury and giving his best to get back on track after two knee surgeries.
Roger produced three wins in Paris before withdrawing ahead of Matteo Berrettini clash, unwilling to test his knee further and taking some rest ahead of Halle and Wimbledon. The former Major finalist Greg Rusedski was not impressed with Roger's decision, describing it as a little disrespectful towards the organizers and fans.
The Briton suggested he should have stepped on the court against the Italian, played a couple of games and retired. Roger took down Denis Istomin and Marin Cilic to advance into the third round, scoring his first Major triumphs since the last year's Australian Open and facing Dominik Koepfer.
Federer beat Koepfer 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, 7-5 in three hours and 35 minutes on an empty Court Philippe-Chatrier, advancing into the fourth round but stressing his knee too much after not playing for 13 months! The 27-year-old German threw everything he had at Roger under the lights of Court Philippe-Chatrier, firing 55 winners and 40 unforced errors and pushing the legend to the limits.
In the end, Roger won one point more than his rival and sealed the deal with a late break in the fourth set to become the oldest player to reach the fourth round at Majors since 1978! The opening set lasted for over an hour, and Koepfer saved a set point at 4-5 to prolong it.
Federer grabbed the tie break 7-5 with a volley winner at the net for an early advantage against a tough opponent who was ready to show his rich arsenal. The second set saw some loose serving early on, leading to four breaks in the opening six games.
Roger Federer withdrew from Roland Garros after winning three matches.
There were no more chances for the returners after that, and Dominik claimed the breaker 7-3 following Roger's backhand mistakes to level the overall score after two hours of intensive fight.
Firing from all cylinders, the lower-ranked player produced three commanding holds early in the third set to gain a boost and broke Roger in the opening game to forge a 4-2 advantage and increase his chances against the 2009 champion.
Determined to fight, Federer pulled the break back at 3-4 when his rival netted a backhand and created a set point at 6-5. Koepfer saved it to reach a tie break, and Federer clinched it 7-4 after a crafty drop shot. They traded breaks in games three and four in set number four to stay close to each other before Roger served to stay in the set at 4-5.
The Swiss produced a hold at 30 and broke Dominik at 15 a few minutes later for the crucial lead and decisive move. Serving for the victory, the 2009 winner held at 15 to seal the deal and celebrate the 365th Major victory in style before withdrawing from the event on the following day.
"It was a little disrespectful to pull out the way he did. I wish he had gone on the court against Matteo Berrettini. There are four big tournaments in the tennis year, and Roland Garros is one of them. He gets away with it because he is Roger Federer and people want to see him play, but I do not think it was right.
He should have gone out there against Berrettini. Even if he lost in straight sets, it does not matter. This was the fourth round of a Major, and if he steps on the court, plays five games and says his knees are hurting, at least he has shown up. Who knows for how long he will play, and this may be his last Roland Garros," Greg Rusedski said.