French OpenGrand SlamsRoger Federer

Federer Grinds Out Victory to Make French Open Fourth Round

The Swiss came through a three and a half hour encounter to win his 73rd match at Roland Garros.

Roger Federer is through to the last sixteen in Paris after defeating Dominik Koepfer 7-6(5), 6-7(3), 7-6(4), 7-5 in 3 hours and 35 minutes.

The victory sees Federer make the second week of a Grand Slam for the sixty-eighth time in his career, but this is sadly the first time he's done it without fans courtside, thanks to the French Government enforcing a non-sensical 9 pm curfew.

Federer will next face Matteo Berrettini on Monday after the Italian defeated Soonwoo Kwon in straight sets earlier in the day.

Quick Match Recap

federer koepfer fo

Federer won the toss and chose sides. Koepfer elected to receive. 

The Swiss managed to frame his first three groundstrokes, but they all landed in, and he won the opening point en route to holding for 1-0. Koepfer responded with a confident hold to love, with Federer failing to put a return in play.

However, after holding for 2-1, Federer created his first breakpoint in game four. Koepfer saved it thanks to a first serve + forehand combo to make deuce and erased a second followed by an ace. The German then held for 2-2.

In game five, Federer had to save a couple of breakpoints and, like his opponent moments earlier, saved the first thanks to a first serve + big forehand. 

Koepfer quickly levelled for 3-3 with a love hold, but Federer was soon back ahead with a comfortable hold of his own for 4-3.

Two more break points came the way of the Swiss in game eight and despite establishing himself in the rally on both of them thanks to Koepfer second serves, he made two sliced errors to let the German escape for 4-4.

A ridiculous angled stun volley at 30-30 helped Federer hold for 5-4, and he created a set point in the next game, but a missed passing shot before Koepfer held for 5-5.

An exchange of holds meant the set resulted in a tie break, and it was Federer who went up the first mini-break, coming up with a slick return to lead 2-0.

However, the lead did not last long as Koepfer recovered it before moving into a 4-3 lead. Federer managed to hold both his service points for 5-4, and an untimely double fault from the German gave Federer two sets points.

Koepfer saved the first on his own serve, but Federer converted the second, putting away a volley into the open court to take a close opening set that saw both players win 49 points each.

Into set two, and Koepfer found himself in trouble early at 30-40, but a tame Federer return landed beyond the baseline.

A second breakpoint followed after Koepfer had missed a game point, but a body serve jammed Federer on the return.

Fortunately, a third followed, and this time Federer came up with the goods, ripping a forehand winner to lead 1-0.

Federer held to love to consolidate the break, but he dropped serve to let Koepfer back into the set in game four.

A lapse in concentration from Koepfer handed Federer the immediate re-break, but the Swiss was equally unfocused, dropping serve again as Koepfer levelled at 3-3.

The German then held to take the lead for the first time, but Federer quickly levelled at 4-4.

At 4-5, Federer slipped to deuce from 40-0 up but recovered to level at 5-5, and a further exchange of holds meant set two also resulted in a tie break.

Koepfer was the man who got the immediate mini-break, but he relinquished it quickly as Federer levelled at 2-2. 

The Swiss, however, could not find his serve, losing the next four points to slip to 2-6. Koepfer converted his second set point to level it at one set all.

After a lengthy bathroom break, Federer kicked off set three by dropping serve from 40-15 up. Koepfer held to love thanks to Federer's inability to find the court for a 2-0 lead.

Federer struggled to find much success from the baseline, the German maintained his advantage to lead 4-2, but in game eight, he became a little passive, allowing Federer to break back for 4-4.

Federer held to love for 5-4 to put the pressure back on Koepfer, but he held to level for 5-5.

Another speedy hold put Federer up 6-5, and then back to back double faults helped him create a set point, but Koepfer came up with some strong serving to force yet another tie break.

A forehand wide got the tie break off to a poor start for Federer, but he recovered the mini-break and captured another to gain a 4-3 lead.

The decision to pull the trigger on a low margin forehand didn't pay off as Koepfer got back to 4-4, but Federer came up with some brilliant defence to lead 6-4 and converted his first set point to move two sets to one in front.

Set four began with both players exchanging early holds, but Federer broke through when Koepfer went just wide with a backhand for a 2-1 lead. 

Koepfer decided to manually check the mark then spit on the line, which left the umpire no choice but to issue a point penalty and meant Federer started game four up 15-0.

The advantage didn't help the Swiss, though, as he missed four forehands in the game top drop serve as Koepfer levelled for 2-2.

Two well-executed drop shots then helped Federer hold for 3-3. The pair exchanged holds for 4-4 before a love hold put Koepfer 5-4 in front.

Federer handled the pressure to hold for 5-5 and then came up with one of his best games of the match to break, firing some big groundstrokes to break, which left Koepfer rueing not putting away two smashes earlier in the game. Check out the hand skills from Federer to the second smash back in play.

The Swiss then served it out to fifteen to book his spot in the fourth round.

Match Stats

  Dominik Koepfer Roger Federer
Aces 11 6
Double Faults 4 1
1st Serve 95/161 (59%) 101/158 (64%)
1st Serve Points Won 62/95 (65%) 69/101 (68%)
2nd Serve Points Won 41/66 (62%) 33/57 (58%)
Net points won 21/41 (51%) 48/67 (72%)
Breakpoints won 4/6 (67%) 5/14 (36%)
Receiving points won 56/158 (35%) 58/161 (36%)
Winners 55 51
Unforced Errors 40 63
Total Points Won 159 160
Max Serve Speed 205 km/h (127mph) 197 km/h (122 mph)
1st Serve Average Speed 182 km/h (113mph) 174 km/h (108 mph)
2nd Serve Average Speed 161 km/h (100mph) 143 km/h (88 mph)


Thoughts on the Match

federer koepfer roland garros

Yeah, I mean, I wasn't sure after the second set how much was left in the tank, so you know, it was a good battle until then. I feel like I needed to maybe pace myself ever so slightly at that moment, especially emotionally, of not pressing too hard and wanting it too badly. So maybe just get a bit more mellow and relaxed about things and just go with the flow a little bit, let the experiment take over.

And then see how I feel letter, as I know in best-of-five-set matches you always have moments where you feel better and worse. Yeah, that's not the question really. The question is how do I feel about winning and not if I was worried to be honest.

It was very important for me, I certainly hadn't practised for three hours 35 minutes because that is obviously 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 all of us. I didn't expect to be able to win three matches here.

Playing without fans I knew was going to hit me at some point. It maybe benefits players like myself who are very focused when they go to practice. It wasn't easy tonight, was unique in many ways, but I'm happy I found a way. I was playing for all those watching at home on TV.Federer on his victory over Koepfer

Another great win here for Federer, and I was very impressed that he could find the motivation to drag himself through a match with zero atmosphere. This is the first night match in Paris I've watched in full, they are dreary, and I'm sure the players will feel the same.

If we take away the zero crowd aspect, which is uncharted territory, then Roger has not played a match like this since his comeback. By that, I mean a match where the conditions are slow, and he cannot find a way to hit through his opponent, who can seemingly track down every ball.

But like he's done many times before, he found a way to come through, and while it wasn't always pretty, he showed enough of the good stuff (like the skills to get that smash back at 15-15 in the penultimate game) to record his 365th match win at Grand Slam level. 

So now we have two matches where he has played at a pretty consistent level, this time for over 3 hours, and he looked pretty strong throughout. There were a few periods where you thought his legs looked weary, but then he'd pick it up again, run around some backhands to rifle home forehands, and he won 21 rallies over 9 shots to Koepfer's 15 over the course of the match. 

As for Koepfer, I have not seen much of him, and I was very impressed with how well he moves. Looking at the match stats, he won 1 less point, but he's ahead in virtually all other areas, so rarely was he outplayed. His backhand was also a very dangerous shot, plus he was full of running, so Federer had a tough time finding ways to break him down. On the flip side, he's not the most likeable on-court character with many obscenities and spitting on the line, which you can do without.

Final Thoughts

  • Very good mental + physical effort
  • Koepfer will run down everything but not well behaved on court
  • Night sessions with no crowd are abysmal

Predictions vs Berrettini

fed berrettini

I don't know if I am going to play. I have to decide whether or not to continue playing. Is it too risky to keep putting pressure on the knee? Is it a good time to rest? Every match I have to reassess the situation and see the next morning in what state I wake up and how my knee is doing. It may be even more true after a match as long as the one tonight. Federer on a potential withdrawal

Next up is Matteo Berrettini, who won his third-round match against Korean Soonwoo Kwon in straight sets.

The Italian has had an impressive clay-court season, making the final in Madrid, and I think he is the favourite come Monday.

Federer will be coming in after two fairly long matches and must surely be thinking he's extracted precisely what he wanted from Paris, so it's time to look towards what he can do on the grass.

Still, I wouldn't be surprised to see him win another match to make the Quarter Finals, but Berrettini has a big serve and forehand, and I expect him to be the fresher of the two.

What did you guys think of the lifeless night match on Chatrier? Predictions against Berrettini? Let me know in the comments.


Huge fan of Roger Federer. I watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or writing about tennis I play regularly myself and have a keen interest in tactics, equipment and technicalties of the sport.

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  1. That was quick, Jon – thanks. I suddenly realised that you might have posted even given the late hour. Off to read now.

  2. What did I think? Lifeless, horrid, and torturous. That if I’d known that all it took to get Koepfer to drop his serve was to ask him nicely I’d have done it a lot earlier in the match rather than at the end of Set 4, and that if you apply pressure in the right way it’s quite easy to get him either to put the ball in the net or hit it out 🙂

    But Roger’s game really was not on song tonight. I hope it’s a temporary blip, but we’ll see when he plays Berrettini. Just thinking, that’ll be the only match between the two I haven’t watched (at least some of) in person …

    1. Lifeless is a good word. Night sessions will be good with a full house but empty?

      At least in the day even with barely and crowd you have the sunshine to act as a disinfectant.

  3. I watched every minute. I was so happy he won and I still think he’s the greatest!! Praying I’ll see him in person one day
    Thanks so much for these emails
    I love them!

  4. Great win for Roger! Hard to watch but still great win. In his interview, he said there is a possibility for him to withdraw from next match, so I think it’s the most likely to happen as Halle is just 9 days to go.

    1. ?! Not in the on-court interview? You mean in the press conference later? Wow. Highly unusual for him to mention such a possibility…

    2. Yes was surprised to read that. Maybe he thinks these guys should be beating him lol.

      I remember Ronnie O’Sullivan saying the only reason he still plays is the ones coming through aren’t even good amateurs really ,🤣

  5. Yes, that was an agonizing match to watch! Koepfer was a pig of a player. Not impressed….especially against the classy Fed. He can certainly run down everything but yuck.
    I loved Roger saying, ” I was playing for all those watching at home on TV”. He knows the millions are there screaming in the ether.
    As far as that night match, horrible. Sorry France, I don’t understand the curfew. Hopefully, that will be the end of that with the field being smaller now.
    It was an ugly win the what the hell….it was a win. Not much time for that body to rest.

    1. Yeah Koepfer not overly likeable, although I think he was far worse a few years ago on the Challenger tour and college scene.

      Main thing is he that he’s mainly just beating up on himself. Not arguing with the opponent.

      Spitting on line though just looks stupid. Stamping on it would have been far better.

  6. What a win.. didn’t expect it tbh. It was a tricky opponent and difficult conditions. The big question now – will he play on Sunday against Berretini. I would to see him at RG for one more time but its better for him to rest and prepare for Halle. It’s starting next week, very little to transition from clay to grass.

  7. What insanity is this, curfew makes no sense at all, also, match ending around midnight – not much recovery time for Federer. Organisers should be ashamed with this lack of respect for his illustrious career. Koepfer’s tennis, impressive – but as far as class is concerned, it’s nil in that department. I had been thinking if Roger reaches QF, it will be a good run at RG.. so I hope he makes it with next round v Berrettini.

    1. Forget said they agreed all the top guys would have 1 match at 9pm with no fans so from that point it is fair.

      Curfew is garbage. Why people accept this nonsense I will never know. Well I think I do know why but too long for here.

  8. I don’t really get why they’re scheduling night matches at all given they can’t have spectators (other than some journalists….)

    Agree with your assessments Jon, at times he seemed about to collapse, then Master of Tennis reappeared. Getting that smash back was one of those – wait what, did he just do that? – moments.

    Koepfer had great hustle & was able to produce some great angles, but yeah, did not make a terribly positive impression.

    I guess bottom line – if Fed’s happy, I’m happy.

    1. Yes Koepfer made some really good shots but hard to like someone checking marks and spitting on them.

      Normally the crowd can bring out the worst in players if they are cheering for the opponent etc so not sure how you can get so mad behind closed doors to do that. Would have been better just to crash a ball into the empty seats.

  9. RG feels out of date IMO. The AO had a few crowd-less matches and it was as dull as dishwater. Rafa and Coronavick look very much in form. Seriously, who is going to stop Rafa on clay? Nobody, unless he breaks a leg or something? It feels like a foregone sleeveless conclusion. Fed could be toast after the Quarters?! (Would love to be proven wrong-I really would). Anyway, enjoy your 14th French title Rafa. (Yawn). Don’t get me wrong, he’s record there is truly amazing an all, unprecedented in the game, but I like to see great rivalries in tennis/sport. In all the Slams. Not one-sided clay affairs…unless it’s Fed of coarse. Ha. Looking forward to Halle. Different kettle of fish altogether. Good luck there RF, don’t forget your new On shoes. 😉

    1. I agree. Super bored with Rafa and RG. Even Rafa’s matches have become so predictable and boring…. It’s time someone new came along please!

    2. Musetti no chance.

      Tsitsipas is probably the biggest threat, he looks in good form.

      Sascha can be dangerous but who knows.

  10. Great fighting win for Roger. Stupid of the organizers to put him in the night session with empty seats. The idea of putting a star player in the night session is to give the spectators a chance to come and see a top player even on a work day. Hope this is the last night session he had to play here. It will be very tough for Roger to pull through the next round. He should have enough info about his game and body by now and it might be better for him to end this campaign next round and start the grass preparation. I would hate to see him have one more loss against Djoker.

    1. Yeah RG is the worst slam I think.

      Even that statue of Nadal is absolute trash. He has to stand next to it pretending he likes it 🤣

  11. Amazon France bought the rights for huge money and that has meant big names playing on empty soulless Chatrier every night. That was horrid, watching it back. At least the USO tried with their fake crowds and fake applause. Zero from Crappy RG.
    Tremendous fight from Fed. That was like watching a Millman match. Koepfer runs down everything but no weapons.
    Great resilience from Fed and a v good knee test. Not sure he will play R16 though given his presser comments. I sincerely hope he does. Not convinced grass his friend anymore with its speed, and danger from the giant servers. Keep going here Rog

    1. Ah hadn’t heard that about Amazon France, thanks for the clarification Susie. It’s always money isn’t it?

      Seemed like it changed conditions so drastically too when the sun set – they had to readjust to a “new court” partway through the match.

  12. I am very happy with Roger today. Sure, he goes through some rough patches where it seems he got the opponent beat only to get broken the very next game and give his opponent a life line.

    All these things can only hopefully improve with match practice.

    That being said, Roger is extracting a great amount of information and also God willing, his body will continue to hold up.

    I agree that the conditions were dreadful – slow, cold especially at night. I was shocked how slow the serves were coming in at times.

    But playing a lefty – it was good also. That being said, his winners to unforced errors ratio was not good so I am sure he can improve on those fronts.

    The energy level is still OK – not a spring chicken but not completely gassed yet. Plus, his stamina will improve with more matches like this.

    As for Berrettini – not sure what to say there – Roger beat him if I am not mistaken in straights at Wimbledon 2017 en route to the title. Not sure but I assume things have changed since then. But Roger will play in front of fans (hopefully) and try to move him around. Will see.

    He is probably itching to test himself against the Djoker to truly measure where his level is at. But if he falls in the 4th round, it will still be a very good tournament for him all things considered.

    I hope he rests well. 🤗☝️

    1. They played at Halle 2019. Berrettini was the form grass player but Fed won fairly easy.

      Clay is his best surface though I think.

  13. Wow,

    Just listened to the presser. Roger might not play the next match. Either he might be feeling something physical or who knows.

    No other reason to not want to play. But who the heck knows. I guess we’ll find out..

  14. Fed did very well in a match with no atmosphere and a tough(and unpleasant)opponent.
    Being greedy it would be nice to see him play more especially against Berettini but perhaps he has enough match
    practise on clay and a pretty tough draw from now on in.
    Time to move on to grass?
    Would seem a good decision.

  15. I only really expected him to reach round three at the best, given all the circumstances, so last night’s win was a huge bonus, also given the circumstances!
    Whether he plays or withdraws from the fourth round, I think what he’s achieved is huge. This is why he is as great as he is. Go win Halle Fed!

  16. Any day that I can spend almost 4 hours watching Roger Federer play a match – and win the match – is a good day for me. While at times there was a plodding quality to the match, I was so impressed with Fed’s demeanour and his drive to the finish. Happy for him, his team and his fans that he won tonight!!! Pretty big hint about possible withdrawal, we will see soon enough. Hopefully quite a bit of quality tennis coming this summer 🙂

    1. I didn’t enjoy watching it at all 😃 it just feels so lifeless, like tennis in a post apocalyptic world and it’s just those 2 in an airplane hanger playing tennis.

  17. Half step back and Fed would not need to go into long hard battles and be able to dictate his position game. Koepfer is typical American College player, very physical. Similar to Karatsev, but Karatsev is more aggressive and not so good in defense.
    Given Fed could not dictate, he needed to use energy and was missing a lot at the net (mostly passed to the open court).
    Then getting nervous, struggling with serve and making tons of UEs, which were actually forced errors with Kopfer playing him hard and long to the feet.
    Maybe it was necessary and positive for his come-back, because his knees and stamina were heavily tested. Maybe some barriers were broken and he knows now, he can go the distance if needed.
    If he can recover well, I like his chances against Berrettini, who will have his cheap points from big serving but is not a very good mover and will commit more errors and Fed will know how to extract them.

    1. Koepfer got the set I expected, but he probably should have won more. The stats are crazy close. Those 2 smashes he didn’t put away were pretty big in hindsight.

  18. Polish media say, FGederer had knee pains during the match and is supposed to withdraw from Paris to save the knee and stamina for grass.

  19. If indeed Roger withdraws from the 4th round, it would be a very strange occasion. Never before has a player withdraw from a Grand Slam event for reasons of getting prepared for the next tournament. As much as I understand the reasons behind such a potential move, it just feels strange. Will that not undermine the spirit of sportsmanship and competition?
    This reminds me of an article which I read years ago about the US player Tom Gorman who deliberately “loses” a final for reasons that are bigger than himself.
    Could Federer have done the same thing for Dominik what Tom did for Stan?

    1. You have an interesting point. Normally the slam isn’t so close to Halle though. It would be quite an involved decision for him.

    2. I agree 100%. If he withdraws, should give back all his Sportmanship Awards.
      No matter what calculations are.
      Yes, he could have the battle, but help Koepfer win, so there is a normal next round and not a W/O for Berrettini (some could say, it’s to give Berrettini better chances to defeat Djoker.
      I hate such things in everyone. I even like more Kyrgios tanking, when he is not interested in upcoming matches and bored too much.
      If the King shows such an ego, everyone is allowed to do the same. And the pro circus is going to have a clown as a king.
      I hope, Fed plays Berrettini, but does not go badly for the win. This looks a lot ´better, given nobody game him chances to go that deep.
      Should Federer need some matches to play but never planned to go so deep he can, there are still Challengers all over the world.

    3. Maybe not mid slam but many have withdrawn just before it started. Murray did it this year to prepare for grass.

      Do we have his exact quote? It wasn’t in the English questions.

    4. That would show a total lack of respect to the fans and would go against the spirit of sport.

      There is no way Nadal would do something like this, he fould fight until he had nothing left on his tank. Toughness is what separates them the most.

      1. Didn’t Nadal skip the US Open so he was in good shape for Paris last year?

        How many times did he sign a deal with Basel, sell tickets galore then withdraw a day before lol.

        Nadal has retired 9 times during play…

      2. Skipping an entire tournament due to health issues or calendar choices is completely different than start and leave in the middle of it to “rest one week”. Sorry that can’t be defended. 0 commitment, 0 fighting spirit.

  20. If Roger has pain in knees that’s for sure enough reason to withdraw. If he does, I would like to place some cards on teen Musetti – watched a little highlight, very smart battling, AND onehand-backer 😊

      1. Of course this is just dream-thing. But if not this time, it might be more real in some time/years – ? Interesting to follow that talent, I imagine

  21. A great match and enjoyed it and was amazed at every play. If he withdraws will be for a good reason, totally trust him.

    1. Sterile.

      Not the tennis, although it wasn’t great level, but the lack of crowd makes it almost unwatchable. If it was not a Fed match I would not have watched.

      I saw 5 mins of Isner vs Stef the other day and could not watch.

  22. Dear fellow Readers,

    Call me conservative but I was shocked when I watched the opponent
    of Mr. Federer spitting on the red clay several times during the match especially when he lost a point. What primitive
    manners, what a primitive player! Sadly, the standard of behaving on the court is monotonously declining. My opinion only.

    Go Federer, go!


  23. Roger has just withdrawn from Roland Garros. He is fine physically but does not want to push it regarding his knee. Has to listen to his body. Will go on to Halle.

  24. I never thought that Rog was going to lose but did have flashes after the 2nd set TB of ‘God, not another match made unnecessary long’. Sadly, that was more or less what happened – 3hours35min, though finished in 4 sets. Late night without fans? I had the feeling that Rog was not impressed from the moment he stepped on the court.
    On the match, never watched Koepfer play before, the poorer version of Fernando Verdasco. The guy clearly did his homework on Rog on clay and read Nadai’s script – getting all the balls back and lots of high balls to Rog’s BH side. The only positive is that Rog is now ‘battle-hardened’.

  25. On the ‘spitting’ moment, the guy was unprofessional to cross to the opposite site and was an idiot to spit the location, when found that the ball was out. He clearly thought himself very highly. As a 27-year old, what a jerk. The commentators mentioned that he is a ‘late’ developer. They really meant his maturity, or the lack of it.

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