For the first time in Roland-Garros history, a match passed midnight in Paris, and a worldwide audience saw tennis reflected on the figure of a legend, an athlete that inspires with his passion for the sport he masters.
Roger Federer and Dominik Koepfer entered the Court Chatrier on Saturday to play their first night session at Roland-Garros in an empty stadium due to the Covid-19 curfew in the City of Lights.
The night clash would turn into a hard-fought four-setter battle 7-6(5), 6-7(3), 7-6(4), 7-5, which came to an end after three hours and 39 minutes.
The Swiss player emerged victorious from the first tiebreak of the night, taking the opener 7-6(5) in over an hour.
Germany’s Koepfer stole the second set tiebreak 7-6(3) after 53 minutes.
The set was so tight that at 6-5, each player had won the same amount of points, 82.
In the third set, unforced errors and missed serves amounted to the 2009 Roland-Garros singles champion side.
At 2-1, and with the 27-year-old leading the score, the world No. 8 had recorded 40 unforced errors to his adversary 23.
As the fight on court continued, the 20-time Grand Slam champion raised his level, recovering from a break down to outlast ranked 59 in the third tiebreak 7-6(4).
The former world No. 1 leaned the score to his favor with an advantage of two sets to one.
The fourth set unfolded as tight as the previous three, bringing the players to the edge of their mental and physical form.
At 6-5, the 39-year-old place himself at the top, serving for the set; he closed out with a 7-5 victory, reaching the fourth round at the French Open for the 15th time.
The eight seeded hit 51 winners to the German player’s 55 and won 68 percent of points on his first serve, while his rival earned 65.
All in all, Federer recorded 63 unforced errors compared to Koepfer’s 40, smashing six aces across the match.
The major Parisian clay tournament marked the return of the Basel native to action after 16 months apart from tennis as he underwent two knee surgeries.
Throughout his 2021 campaign in Paris, Federer moved past Denis Istomin and Marin Cilic.
On Monday, he will face Matteo Berrettini, who secured a spot into the last 16 for the first time in his career Saturday.
The ninth seed defeated ranked No. 91 Soonwoo Kwon in straight sets 7-6(6), 6-3, 6-4 after two hours and 11 minutes.
The Italian and the Swiss player have never met on the clay court, but the latter leads their ATP Head2Head series with two victories over Berrettini on other surfaces.