Roland Garros is a “stepping stone” to Wimbledon, according to Roger Federer.


Roland Garros is a “stepping stone” to Wimbledon, according to Roger Federer.

Roger Federer advanced to the fourth round of the French Open after a soulless late-night battle with German Dominik Koepfer — and then revealed he could withdraw with Wimbledon in mind.

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.

“These are all stepping stones to something that is incredibly important to me,” Federer said. Federer has always cited Wimbledon as his major goal of the season.

“We go through these matches, we analyze them thoroughly, and we look ahead to what’s next, and we’ll do the same tonight and tomorrow, because I need to determine if I should keep playing or not, whether it’s not too risky to keep pushing at this point, or if this is simply a fantastic way to rest.

“Because I don’t have the regular week between here and (the grass-court tournament in) Halle, (we need to assess) what’s best now, counting back from Wimbledon.

“There’s just a lot going on, but having a match like this, knowing I could definitely play a fifth set but not knowing how I’ll wake up tomorrow, is unusual to say the least.”

German Koepfer, who was rated 59th, was on the lookout. (This is a brief piece.)


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