Like many times before, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are through to the last 16 at a Major event. Separated by two Major titles in their extraordinary GOAT race, the three legends are in contention for the Roland Garros trophy, although not from the same perspective. Nadal and Djokovic are yet to lose a set this week in Paris, sailing into the fourth round without facing a tougher obstacle and remaining on a collision path towards the semi-final clash. Unlike these two, Roger Federer is in a different position, playing only the third tournament after the last year’s Australian Open and trying to gather form and momentum ahead of his beloved grass swing. Two months before turning 40, Roger became the oldest player in the fourth round at a Major since Ken Rosewall in 1978, prevailing over Dominik Koepfer in four tight sets after three hours and 35 minutes. After the match, Federer said that he would love to in Nadal’s or Djokovic’s shoes, as he doesn’t know how his knee would react after such a difficult encounter and by far his toughest challenge in the last year and a half.
Roger Federer has joined Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic in Roland Garros R4.
“It’s fun in some ways not knowing, like in 2017 when I came back or when nobody really knows, even I don’t know what is possible. That’s got a fun angle, but I would prefer it differently. I’d prefer to be in Rafa’s or Novak’s shoes right now where they’re like, ‘I’m feeling good. If I’m playing well, I’m winning.’ I don’t have that feeling right now, so for me, these are all stepping stones to something significant. It’s the season, and it’s the comeback. I need matches like these. I clearly hadn’t practiced for three and a half hours because that’s obviously always pushing it. I pushed as much as I could, as we thought was reasonable. Today’s match was a huge step forward for the team and for all of us. I didn’t expect to win three matches here and sort of back up a good performance against Cilic as well in completely different circumstances tonight. It wasn’t easy for me to go out tonight.
It was a lot of firsts for me – playing against Koepfer in my first night session here in Paris, the first time with no fans in a long time, or ever in my career. That was definitely very unique in many ways, and I’m happy I found a way. Also, especially emotionally, how do you handle losing that second set? How do you handle keeping pushing yourself on and trying to feed off the team’s energy and thinking of all the people watching on TV? I was really picturing many people on a Saturday night, maybe checking in on the game and watching some tennis. So in many ways, I was also playing for them and trying to let that inspire me.
When you’re down, you don’t like the battle. When you’re leading, it’s actually quite fun. It goes with the territory, right? Dominik was a tough nut to crack. Took me many different things; I tried various attempts to break him down. I thought my fighting spirit for once got me over the line as well. I tried really hard, and you’ve got to love what you do. I tried to be motivated and see what could be done. I knew it was a big match for me to back it up after Cilic. And still, you are on Centre Court in Paris. It’s where you always wanted to be as a little boy, and you try to remind yourself many times. I appreciate battles like these,” Roger Federer said.