Roger Federer reached the last 16 at Roland Garros but needed all his fighting skills to make his way past the German Dominik Koepfer on an empty and strange Philippe Chatrier court in Saturday night’s match. The 39-year-old, 20-time Grand Slam champion was at times in tatters and lacked his usual zip against tenacious Koepfer, but the eighth seed made his way to a 7-6 (5) 6 -7 (3) 7-6 (4) Win 7-5 with time approaching 1 a.m. local time.
It was Federer’s first taste of a Grand Slam game played without fans, thanks to the 9 p.m. COVID-19 curfew in Paris, and it wasn’t an experience he seemed to enjoy as the 27 year old southpaw gave him a scorching scorching weather. . Federer was rocked by the heavy strike from the world number 59, but dug deep to win the opening tie-break of the night, helped by a double fault from Koepfer at a crucial moment.
Federer put the pressure on at the start of the second set and got an early break. But Koepfer relented and after the breaks were traded again, the set reached a tie-break. Koepfer took the lead 6-2 as errors escaped Federer’s racket and he equalized the game thanks to another straightforward error from the Swiss who was only playing his sixth game in 17 months after knee surgery .
Federer, the 2009 champion, was faltering when he gave up the serve at the start of the third but fought back 2-4 and after missing a set point in Game 12 he landed the last three points of the third tie- evening break. Feeling his chance to take the biggest scalp of his career was waning, Koepfer’s temper boiled over when his serve was broken 1-1 in the fourth and he was given a point for spitting on the pitch after a tight appeal against him.
The former US college player was not finished, however, and Federer couldn’t find the extra equipment to get rid of his man, giving up the serve in the next game. Federer showed incredible reflexes to return a smash when Koepfer served at 5-5 and pounced for a crucial break as Koepfer hit a forehand over the baseline.
He then held the serve to claim victory, albeit an ugly one, and staged a clash with Italy’s Matteo Berrettini.
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