Serena Williams probably may not have come into the 2021 Roland Garros with high hopes, but there’s hardly any doubt that she’d have loved to smile out in the end as the tourney’s unexpected winner, adding an unprecedented one more grand-slam to her collection. The problem is that her gut feeling took form just as her inner wish got dashed on Sunday after being shown the exit door by Khazastan’s 21 year-old Elena Rybakina, who wasn’t born when the American who is now 39, made her first appearance at the tournament.
Effectively, the fourth round defeat ended whatever dream Williams may have nursed over a possible 24th grand-slam title.
Before crashing out of the tournament, Serena came into the match with Rybakina as the only top 20 ranked player in the bottom half. The reality no doubt buoyed her dream of some break particularly with other big names already down and out by the wayside. But her hopes faded out as the seemingly calculative Kazakh began her 3-6, 6-7 whooping.
In addition to the exit of other big names, Rybakina’s victory over Williams turned the radar on her as the tournament’s potential winner even though this is her first time of getting through the last 16 in any grand-slam.
Meanwhile, it’s a different ball game with tennis old reliable, Roger Federer. Federer, 39, pulled out of the tournament on Sunday after seeing off 59th ranked Dominic Koepfer with a 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/4), 7-5 win in more than three and a half hours of exchange to book a place in the last 16.
But Federer, a 20 grand-slam winner, who will be 40 in two months, decided to call it quit with the tournament in order to pay more attention on his primary objective of winning the 9th Wimbledon title.
“After discussions with my team, I’ve decided I will need to pull out of Roland Garros today. 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,” said Federer who was due back on court on Monday for a date with Matteo Berrettini for a possible place in the quarter-finals.
Federer, who is playing only his third tournament since last year’s Australian Open, has always insisted that grabbing Wimbledon, which kicks off on June 28, is his main goal. However, beginning on June 14, one day after Garros, he is billed to appear in a warm-up grass court tournament in Halle.
Federer made his first French Open appearance in 1999 and landed the title a decade later. His return this year is his second since 2015 and may well be his last appearance.
“The Roland Garros tournament is sorry about the withdrawal of Roger Federer, who put up an incredible fight last night. We were all delighted to see Roger back in Paris, where he played three high-level matches. We wish him all the best for the rest of the season,” Guy Forget, the tournament director said.
Federer’s victory over Koepfer received plaudits from some of his co-top ranked players. In one instance, Britain’s Andy Murray twitted his joy over seeing the Swiss icon back on his feet and doing incredibly well after 2 knee operations.
“I’m not bothered by the outcome of this match at all,” tweeted Britain’s Andy Murray, a former world number one and three-time major winner. Just seeing Federer at 39 off the back of 2 knee surgeries playing to an empty stadium at 12.30am getting fired up is inspirational to me. Do what you love,” Murray twitted.
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