Rival’s classy response to Roger Federer’s French Open exit

Italian tennis star Matteo Berrettini has delivered a classy response to Roger Federer’s exit from the French Open on Sunday.

The Swiss maestro announced his withdrawal from the year’s second grand slam on Twitter, saying he needs to look after his body.

“After discussions with my team, I’ve decided I will need to pull out of the French Open today,” Federer said in a statement.

“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. See everyone soon!”

Roger Federer was playing his first French Open campaign since 2016.Source:Getty Images

The 20-time grand slam champion had played well in his first three outings at Roland Garros, defeating Denis Istomin, Dominik Koepfer and Marin Cilic.

Federer was poised to face Berrettini in the fourth round, but the 39-year-old’s withdrawal gave the world No. 9 a free pass into the French Open quarter-finals.

Berrettini had previously played Federer twice on the ATP Tour, losing on both occasions.

But the 25-year-old, who has never previously advanced into the Roland Garros quarter-finals, didn’t want to achieve the feat in this fashion.

“I was looking forward to that one. Never nice to get through this way,” Berrettini posted to Instagram on Monday.

“Wishing @rogerfederer all the best. Hope to see you on the grass soon (but not too soon).”

A post shared by Matteo Berrettini (@matberrettini)

Berrettini will take on either countryman Lorenzo Musetti or world No. 1 Novak Djokovic later in the week.

Djokovic, the 2016 French Open champion, is bidding to be the first man in more than half a century to win all four majors on multiple occasions.

He will on Monday evening face Musetti, who has become just the sixth man since 2000 to make the fourth round of a major on his debut.

“I really like how he plays. He’s got a lot of firepower from both forehand and backhand,” Djokovic said ahead of a first meeting with Musetti.

Roger Federer of Switzerland and Matteo Berrettini.Source:Getty Images

Federer bombshell sparks angry backlash

Federer is one of the sport’s most loved athletes, but not everyone was happy with his decision to quit midway through the tournament, just so his body holds up for Wimbledon.

Former star turned ESPN analyst Patrick McEnroe told the New York Times: “I understand it, but I don’t like it. It’s just not a great look to pull out of a tournament in the middle.

“It’s one thing if you sprain an ankle badly and finish a match on adrenaline. Those things happen. But it’s another thing when you kind of go into a tournament knowing that you probably aren’t going to be able to really finish the tournament.

“Roger can’t expect that he’s going to play the French Open and not have some physically demanding matches in the first three or four rounds. That’s kind of inevitable.

“Look, he’s trying to get himself ready to make a run at Wimbledon, which I believe he’s done. And a lot of people say he’s Roger Federer. He can do whatever he wants. He’s earned this right, and I understand that, but I still don’t like it.”

Ex-tennis firebrand John McEnroe — Patrick’s brother — was also critical.

“Perhaps Roger might have done the magnanimous thing and defaulted match point up (against Koepfer) … but that’s easy for me to say from Malibu,” he said in commentary for NBC.

— with AFP, Matthew Sullivan & James Matthey

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