Big names tumbled at Roland Garros as Roger Federer abandoned his pursuit of a record 21st grand slam title and Serena Williams’s hopes of lifting her 24th and tying Margaret Court were dashed by 21-year-old Kazakh Elena Rybakina.
- Federer pulled out of the tournament citing a need to listen to his body
- His withdrawal means Italy’s Matteo Berrettini will move into the quarter-finals
- Serena Williams suffered a shock loss to 21-year-old Kazakh Elena Rybakina
Federer withdrew from the tournament one day after winning a tough third-round match against Germany’s Dominik Koepfer.
“After discussions with my team, I decided that I should withdraw from the French Open today,” Federer said in a statement released by the French Tennis Federation.
“After two knee operations and more than a year of rehabilitation, it’s important that I listen to my body and not rush back into competition.”
Federer, who has hardly played in the last 17 months because of knee issues suffered physically in his four-set victory over Koepfer on Saturday and decided to end his Roland Garros campaign ahead of what would have been a punishing fourth-round match against Italian Matteo Berrettini.
He had said after Saturday’s match that he was pondering whether to participate in the second week of the claycourt grand slam as his season goal was winning Wimbledon.
Tournament director Guy Forget said: “The French Open is sorry to see Roger Federer withdraw from the tournament but he put up a great fight last night”.
“We were all delighted to see him back in Paris, where he played three top-level matches. We wish him all the best for the rest of the season.”
Seven-times grand slam champion Mats Wilander paid tribute to Federer for his performance against Koepfer.
“I feel good that I saw Roger was in good enough shape to play like that,” Eurosport pundit Wilander said.
“You have a lot of people say they should retire when they get a little bit old if they cannot win a slam.
“I am of the complete opposite opinion. I absolutely love and respect Roger Federer for what he did last night. He could have easily thrown in the towel and say ‘I had a good enough practice for Wimbledon’.
“But no, he wants to win matches, I am just so impressed with him.”
Williams stunned by youngster
Federer was joined in his exit by fellow 39-year-old Williams.
The American star couldn’t find the big shots at the right times in her 6-3, 7-5 loss to first time grand slam quarter-finalist Rybakina.
Rybakina jumped out to early leads in both sets before Williams got back on serve only to be broken again in both before Rybakina held her nerve on serve to close out the opening set then the match.
Williams when it came down to it was frequently out-hit off the ground and pulled around the court by her younger opponent, who showed no nerves as she converted on five of seven break points against the usually dominant Williams’ serve.
Rybakina also reeled off 21 winners to Williams’s 15 and perhaps the telling moment came when Williams, fatigue showing midway through the second set, failed to get her racket out of the way of a ball that was going long.
Rybakina relieved with the victory and being able to stave off any nerves.
“I am really happy with my tournament and happy I managed my thoughts,” she said.
Rybakina will now play Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the quarters, after she also pulled off an upset, defeating Belraussia’s Victoria Azarenka 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.