Tennis

Roger Federer labelled ‘inspirational’ by Andy Murray after gruelling French Open win

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Former British No 1 Andy Murray was delighted to see Roger Federer enjoying his tennis during the Swiss icon’s hard-fought French Open victory over Dominik Koepfer on Saturday evening. The 39-year-old edged into round four of the tournament after four sets and three tiebreaks in a match that lacked quality at times but with no shortage of passion and desire from both sides of the court.

Federer made a handful of unforced errors in an erratic performance at Roland Garros, but pulled through after three hours and 35 minutes to set up a fourth-round meeting with Matteo Berrettini on Monday.

The Basel native failed to win any break points during the first set, eventually clinching the tiebreak thanks to a double fault by the unfancied Koepfer.

He showed flashes of brilliance throughout a tight second set but began to tire as the match progressed, with his German opponent managing to force a number of mistakes out of the 20-time Grand Slam winner.

However, Federer did enough to seal his third victory at this year’s French Open by claiming another tiebreak in the penultimate set before winning his final three games in the fourth.

The lengthy match represented an important milestone for the veteran, who was making only his sixth on-court appearance since the Australian Open last year.

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He was previously sidelined for over 12 months with a troublesome knee injury that required two operations to fix, and is looking to build up his fitness and match sharpness at Roland Garros before taking on Wimbledon later this month.

Murray, who has beaten Federer on 11 previous occasions, took to Twitter after the match to express his admiration for the one-time French Open champion.

“I’m not bothered by the outcome of this match at all,” wrote Murray.

“Just seeing Federer at 39 off the back of two knee surgeries playing to an empty stadium at 12.30am getting fired up is inspirational to me. Do what you love.”

Murray has struggled with various injury problems of his own in recent years, with a hip issue plaguing the Scot’s efforts since 2017.

Meanwhile, Federer will be hoping to set up a French Open quarter-final clash with Novak Djokovic by overcoming the challenge posed by Berrettini on Monday.

Following his victory over Koepfer, the former announced that he could withdraw from the tournament before the next round in order to manage the condition of his knee ahead of Wimbledon.

“We go through these matches, we analyse them highly and look on what’s next and we’ll do the same tonight and tomorrow,” Federer told reporters.

“Because I need to decide if I keep on playing or not, or is it not too much risk at this moment to keep pushing, or is this just a perfect way to just take a rest.

“Because I don’t have the week in between here and Halle [June 14-20] like normal, to see what’s best now if you count back from Wimbledon and so forth.

“It’s just a lot going on, but having a match like this, knowing I could have probably played a fifth set but not knowing how I will wake up tomorrow is interesting, to say the least.”

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