Roger Federer advances to the fourth round of the Paris Masters after defeating German Dominik Koepfer.

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Roger Federer advances to the fourth round of the Paris Masters after defeating German Dominik Koepfer.

Roger Federer has through to the fourth round of the French Open after a soulless late-night battle with German Dominik Koepfer.

Because of a 9 p.m. curfew in Paris, Roland Garros’ new night session matches are being held behind closed doors this week, and Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal have all taken turns playing to an empty stadium.

But it was particularly shocking to see tennis’ biggest star, who draws sell-out crowds wherever he goes, fighting for his life in the event in such dire circumstances.

If he had lost, it would have been the saddest of farewells to an event that has adored him more than any other, and that looked a serious possibility for practically the whole three hours and 35 minutes they were on the court.

Federer looked for his game in spurts, only to have the errors sneak back in, but he finally won 7-6 (5) 6-7 (3) 7-6 (4) 7-5 and advanced to the quarterfinals against Italy’s Matteo Berrettini.

Koepfer, ranked 59, was attempting to reach the fourth round of a grand slam for the second time, having previously reached the fourth round at Roland Garros.

Federer fought back to take the first set and was twice broken early in the second, but Koepfer kept nipping at his heels, frightening him with the force of his ball-striking and persistent play.

Following an error-strewn tie-break from Federer, Koepfer grabbed the set, and the eighth seed was down a break in the third set.

But he rallied to 4-4 and won the set on another tie-break, marking the first occasion in Federer’s long grand slam career that the opening three sets were decided by tie-breaks.

Federer took a break early in the fourth set as the clock approached midnight, only to surrender it right back despite Koepfer being awarded a point despite having been warned previously. (This is a brief piece.)

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