On Saturday night, the 20-time Major champion Roger Federer battled for three hours and 35 minutes against Dominik Koepfer and prevailed 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, 7-5 to reach the fourth round at Roland Garros. The Swiss veteran hadn't played for 13 months due to a knee injury and two surgeries in 2020, stepping on the court only three times in the past 15 months ahead of Paris!
After achieving everything in our sport in the past two decades, the Swiss maestro is still eager to prove his class and compete on a high level a few months before turning 40, showing his endless love for the game and giving his fans something more to cheer about.
Staying on the court for over three and a half hours for the first time since January last year and competing without the crowd behind his back, Roger gave his everything to edge Koepfer. Federer never stepped back against a formidable opponent despite not knowing would he play in the next match and how his knee would react.
The three-time Major winner Andy Murray stayed late to watch this titanic battle, praising Roger after the encounter and calling him an inspiration. The 27-year-old Koepfer threw everything he had at Roger on an empty Court Philippe-Chatrier under the lights, firing 55 winners and 40 unforced errors and pushing the legend to the limits.
In the end, Roger won one point more and sealed the deal with the fifth break to advance into the next round, as the oldest player at Majors since 1978! Federer rushed to the net almost 70 times and preserved energy in a marathon to extend his Parisian run if he decided to face Matteo Berrettini on Monday.
Andy Murray praised Roger Federer after a thrilling performace vs. Dominik Koepfer.
The opening set lasted for over an hour, and Kpefer saved a set point at 4-5 to stay in touch. Federer grabbed the tie break 7-5 with a volley winner at the net for an early advantage against a tough opponent who played well from his serve and backhand.
The second set saw some loose serving from both early on and four breaks in the opening six games to remain locked at 3-3. There were no more chances for the returners after that, and Dominik claimed it 7-3 in the breaker following Roger's backhand mistakes to level the overall score after two hours.
Firing from all cylinders, the lower-ranked player produced three commanding holds early in the third set and broke Roger in the opening game to forge a 4-2 advantage, looking good to move in front. Determined to fight, Federer pulled the break back at 3-4 when his rival netted a backhand, gathered momentum and created a set point at 6-5.
Koepfer saved it to reach a tie break that Federer claimed 7-4 after a crafty drop shot that sent him two sets to one in front at midnight. They traded breaks in games three and four in set number four to stay neck and neck, and Roger served to stay in the set at 4-5.
He produced a hold at 30 and broke Dominik at 15 a few minutes later for the crucial lead. Serving for the victory, the champion from 12 years ago held at 15 to seal the deal and celebrate the 365th Major victory in style. "I'm not bothered by the outcome of this match at all.
Just seeing Roger Federer at 39 off the back of two knee surgeries playing to an empty stadium at 12.30 am getting fired up is inspirational to me. Do what you love," Andy Murray said.