¡¡¡¡As the clock approached 1 a.m. in Paris, former World No. 1 Roger Federer sealed his spot in the fourth round at Roland Garros with a dramatic 7-6(5), 6-7(3), 7-6(4), 7-5 victory against Dominik Koepfer.
¡¡¡¡The eighth seed was on the ropes as Koepfer took the second set and a 4-2 lead in the third. Federer needed three hours and 39 minutes ¨C along with three grueling tie-breaks ¨C to take back control and secure the win under the lights on Court Philippe-Chatrier, which had no fans due to the 9 p.m. curfew in Paris.
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¡¡¡¡”I wasn’t sure after the second set how much was left in the tank, so it was a good battle until then,” Federer said. “I thought [this win] was very important for me. I clearly hadn’t practiced three hours [and] 35 [minutes], because that’s obviously always pushing it. I pushed as much as I could, as we thought reasonable. But this today was I think a huge step forward for the team, and for all of us.”
¡¡¡¡Federer advanced to the Round of 16 at a Grand Slam for the 68th time, and extended his all-time record for most Round of 16 appearances at the Grand Slams. Federer has been tested throughout the fortnight with wins over Denis Istomin and Marin Cilic.
¡¡¡¡Most Grand Slam R16 Appearances (all-time)
¡¡¡¡No. of Appearances
¡¡¡¡1) Roger Federer
¡¡¡¡2) Novak Djokovic
¡¡¡¡3) Rafael Nadal
¡¡¡¡4) Jimmy Connors
¡¡¡¡T5) Andre Agassi
¡¡¡¡T5) Ivan Lendl
¡¡¡¡Koepfer, who vowed before the match that he would bring the fight to Federer in his first meeting with the 2009 champion, did just that in the 64-minute opening set. But Federer¡¯s experience shined through in the decisive moments, employing his variety to great effect to keep Koepfer under pressure on serve.
¡¡¡¡Federer¡¯s court coverage was also on display at 5-4 as he tracked down a volley from far beyond the doubles alley on his way to a set point – the Swiss’ fifth break opportunity of the set. Koepfer did well to hang with Federer as they went into a tie-break, but the eighth seed took the lead after converting his third set point.
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¡¡¡¡The German blinked first in the second set as he surrendered serve for the first time to give Federer a 2-0 lead, but it was short-lived. Koepfer stayed aggressive and took the ball early, giving Federer plenty of trouble as the German brought them level at 4-4 after a three-game run of breaks. Into another tie-break, Federer¡¯s unforced errors added up and Koepfer took the set after his opponent¡¯s one-handed backhand drifted long.
¡¡¡¡But Koepfer¡¯s calm momentarily cracked in the third set, as he served at 4-3 with a break to the good. He struggled to find first serves, and Federer capitalised on the letdown with aggressive returns to get them back on serve. The pair stayed toe-to-toe in their third tie-break of the night, before Federer inched ahead with a big backhand down the line to set up set point. He earned an unforced error to clinch the lead.
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¡¡¡¡The 39-year-old found another level late in the fourth set as Koepfer threatened to take them into another tie-break. Federer claimed the decisive break at 6-5, and served out his spot in the Round of 16 after three hours and 39 minutes.
¡¡¡¡”For me to go out tonight, sure, it wasn’t easy,” Federer said. “It was a lot of premiers for me: Playing against Koep for first night session here in Paris, first time no fans in a long, long time, or ever in my career. That was definitely very unique in many ways, and I’m happy I found a way.”
¡¡¡¡Federer will next face ninth seed Matteo Berrettini in the fourth round. The Italian took down South Korea¡¯s Soonwoo Kwon 7-6(6), 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the last 16 in Paris for the first time.
¡¡¡¡Did You Know?
¡¡¡¡The only time Federer lost a match at Roland Garros to a player ranked as low as No. 59 Koepfer was in 2003 against No. 88 Luis Horna in the first round.