On the eve of tackling Roland-Garros in May, Roger Federer had his feet on the ground, but his eyes already riveted on the London grass. The Swiss repeated it over and over again: the main objective of his season remained Wimbledon, which saw him triumph by eight times, between 2003 and 2017. So he decided to give up on the way to Paris – for the first time in 80 participations in a Grand Slam tournament – a forfeit in the round of 16 which caused a stir in the alleys of the Porte d’Auteuil.
Almost 40 years old – he will celebrate them on August 8 – Federer preferred to spare himself, after a double arthroscopy in his right knee undergone in 2020 which kept him away from the courts for more than a year.
But to hope to win again in “his” garden, the man with 20 Grand Slams had to garner matches and confidence. The tournament in Halle (Germany), in mid-June, his only grass tournament before the London meeting, ended in a defeat in the second round against the young Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime. Nothing to reassure the supporters of Switzerland, while the player still seemed a little in need of sensations and benchmarks in competition.
In the first round of Wimbledon on June 29, on the Center Court, it even borders on the crime of lese-majesté and the premature exit from the road for the former king of the circuit. Led two sets to one and battered by the left-hander game of Adrian Mannarino, he finally took advantage of the Frenchman’s knee injury – caused by a slip – to pick up two sets everywhere and win the second round on abandonment. But his level is far from that of a Federer of the great days. A drop in regime all in all logical for an almost forty-year-old.
Chez Roger Federer – always 8e global thanks to the freeze of rankings – trust leads to trust. In the second round, facing another Frenchman, Richard Gasquet, he appeared much more at ease on the field, more in rhythm in his game. After a first set hung, he left no chance for the Biterrois (7-6, 6-1, 6-4). The next opponent must represent a first test: the Briton Cameron Norrie, seeded number 29, comfortable during the first laps. A match where the former world number one is reassured. Very satisfied with his level of play during this third round, and despite the loss of a set, he evokes a “Victory reference”. “I’m really, really happy with the way I played. I really play at a better level now [qu’en début de semaine] », he comments after his victory against the Briton.
With this success, the Swiss is back in the second week of the London major, a meeting that he has only missed four times in twenty-two participations. On the road to the quarter-finals stands in front of him Lorenzo Sonego, a promising young Italian, already seeded number 23. Nothing to worry about the Swiss, who finds his feelings on grass again. If he has to fight to pocket the first set 7-5, by being unbreaker while he is used for the set at 5-4, he is then no longer really worried by the 27e global. A controlled meeting, and a success in three sets confirming the regained form of the Swiss: “I felt that after the first set I managed to take control of the game. It was a really good game. “
An 18e quarter for a record
At 39 years and eleven months, Roger Federer continues to break records. With his victory over Sonego, he reached his 18e quarterfinals at Wimbledon. Better yet, he became the oldest quarterfinalist of the Open era in the London tournament. The record was previously held by Ken Rosewall, who had reached the quarterfinals at the age of 39 and … eight months. The Australian had even managed to lift himself to the final.
It remains to be seen whether the Swiss will be able to maintain a sufficient physical level to continue until this stage. Because, since his double operation of the right knee, doubts hover as to his ability to withstand high intensity matches, to the best of five sets. After qualifying for the quarterfinals, the main interested party was still reassuring: “I chose to take losses in order to store up information, just so I could be on the court and put my body in shape, hoping that when Wimbledon comes, I will wake up in the morning and feel good,” capable of playing five sets. And that’s how I feel, so it’s very satisfying. Now we’ll see what I have left in the tank. “
The eight-time winner of Wimbledon will have the opportunity to measure himself once again, Wednesday, July 7, against the Polish Hubert Hurkacz (18e world), striker of Russian Daniil Medvedev in the round of 16. With, in sight for Switzerland, the prospect of a 14e semi-final at the All England Club. And why not a 13e final and a potential revenge on Serbian Novak Djokovic, two years after the epic epilogue of 2019. His followers are waiting for that.