Roger Federer’s dream of winning a ninth Wimbledon title came close to being snuffed out by Adrian Mannarino when they met in the opening round of The Championships in what was one of the highlights of the second day’s schedule.
He could have won the match at the end. Obviously, he was the better player, so I definitely got a bit lucky. Roger Federer
Seeded sixth, the 20-time grand slam winner managed to survive what looked like being a massive upset and having regained the initiative in the fourth set when trailing by two-sets to one, Mannarino slipped on Centre Court twisting his knee badly, forcing him to retire a few games later.
The match itself was evenly balanced at 6-4 6-7(3) 3-6 6-2 with the Swiss icon in the ascendancy having been on the receiving end of some excellent play and shot-making from his French opponent until tragedy struck on what was his 33rd birthday!
Federer was serving with a 4-2 lead in the fourth set when the 41st-ranked Mannarino slipped while attempting a return, twisting his right knee in the process.
Following some medical attention, Mannarino completed the fourth set but it was obvious he just couldn’t continue so decided to throw in the towel.
Federer, at 39 the oldest man in the draw at this year’s Wimbledon, will meet another Frenchman Richard Gasquet, who defeated after two-hours and 44-minutes, Japan’s Yuichi Sugita of Japan 7-6(4) 4-6 6-2 6-1.
“It’s awful,” said Federer, in his on-court interview. “It shows that one shot can change the outcome of a match, a season, a career.
“I wish him all the best and I hope he recovers quickly so we see him back on the courts.
“He could have won the match at the end. Obviously, he was the better player, so I definitely got a bit lucky.
“You don’t get many walkovers throughout a career and you try also not to have it happen to yourself. It’s a reminder [of] how quickly it goes.
“But of course, I’m obviously happy I can get another chance for another match here. I worked very hard and at the end I enjoyed myself out here today. It was great fun until the end, obviously.”
Federer has been largely out of action since the Australian Open in 2020 and in the interim, undergone two operations on his knees, was evidently short of match practice having fallen in the second round in Halle.
Despite that, he was always expected to progress relatively comfortably having never been beaten by Mannarino in all their previous six meetings, but never on grass where the Frenchman has had some previous success winning the Den Bosch title in 2019. He has also reached the fourth round at Wimbledon on three occasions.
Consequently he proved to be a tricky customer from the start as far as Federer was concerned, matching him stride for stride in the early stages of the opening set.
He was broken in the tenth and final game but then fought back to force a tie-break which he dominated to level, maintaining his focus and momentum to go two sets to one up.
But Federer responded by saving a break point in the opening game of the fourth which somehow refocused his mind and approach. He became a different player. His serve started to hit its target and he won 11 of the next 12 points to go 3-0 up but when leading 4-2, Mannarino suffered his unfortunate accident.
When asked about the incident during the media press conference later in the day, he revealed: “Well, as I was walking out, the referee asked me how I was feeling about the court. I said, I think the court plays normally as we know it. I do feel it feels a tad more slippery maybe under the roof. I don’t know if it’s just a gut feeling.
“You do have to move very, very carefully out there. If you push too hard in the wrong moments, you do go down. I do feel it’s drier during the day. With the wind and all that stuff, it takes the moist out of the grass. But this is obviously terrible.
“Yeah, I don’t think it plays very different. Again, I’m also moving carefully. This is what I told the team, as well. They thought I moved very well.”