Why did Roger Federer withdraw from French Open? Tennis star explains decision to step away three matches in

For the second time in six days, one of tennis’ top stars has withdrawn from the French Open.

The first was world No. 2 Naomi Osaka, who on Monday withdrew from Roland Garros, citing preservation of her mental health. Then, on Sunday, world No. 8 and the French Open’s 8-seed Roger Federer withdrew after his third match — one that went three hours and 35 minutes. It ended at roughly 1 a.m. local time in Paris in front of an empty court due to Paris’ 9 p.m. curfew amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was clear Federer’s Saturday match with Dominik Koepfer — which the former won in four sets, 7-6(5), 6-7(3), 7-6(4) 7-5 — exhausted the 39-year-old tennis star. Speaking to media after the match, he mulled over whether he would withdraw:

“I mean, every match here or at Geneva, I have to reassess the situation after the match and see how the knee feels the next morning,” Federer said. “So from that standpoint for me, it’s always like that. There is no difference after a match like this, but maybe even more so after a match like this that has been long.

“Like I explained before, I have not been through three-and-a-half-hour battles in practice either.”

The 20-time Grand Slam champion, who won in Paris in 2009, was slated to play 9-seed Matteo Berrettini on Monday. The Italian will now play the winner of world No. 1 Novak Djokovic or 19-year-old Lorenzo Musetti in the quarterfinals.

Roland Garros broke the news Sunday that Federer would withdraw from the tournament:

Federer later released his own statement:

“After discussions with my team, I’ve decided I will need to pull out of the French Open today,” Federer said. “After two knee surgeries and over a year of rehabilitation it’s important that I listen to my body and make sure I don’t push myself too quickly on my road to recovery.

“I am thrilled to have gotten three matches under my belt. There is no greater feeling than being back on court.”

Federer underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in February 2020, withdrawing from Dubai, Indian Wells, Miami and the French Open to give time for his knee to recover. Later that June, a setback in his initial rehabilitation necessitated an additional arthroscopic procedure, pushing his rehabilitation timeline to 13 months.

This is not the first time Federer has withdrawn from competition this season. He also withdrew from the 2021 Australian Open, returning to his first ATP Tour event since undergoing surgery at the 2021 Qatar Open. There, he won his opening match before losing in the quarterfinals. He later withdrew from the Dubai Open as well.

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