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Federer defeats Cilic in four sets to advance at French Open

Roger Federer gets the best of Marin Cilic in four sets to reach round three at Roland-Garros on Thursday. Next up for Federer is Dominik Koepfer.

Roger Federer, Roland-Garros 2021 AI / REUTERS / PANORAMIC

Roger Federer may be playing the French Open mainly to get match practice before Wimbledon, the Olympics, and the US Open, but don’t discount him from making a deep run in Paris.

Federer raised his level with the quality of competition ratcheting up from round one to round two, as he defeated Marin Cilic 6-2, 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-2 on Thursday afternoon. The 39-year-old struck 16 aces compared to only one double-fault and finished with 47 winners to 27 unforced errors while advancing in two hours and 35 minutes.

The only drama came in the second and third sets — the second simply because Federer received a time violation…while returning!

“I didn’t understand what was going on until I figured, like, he must have said something to me about a warning,” Federer said of the chair umpire. “Then I tried to understand why; like, I don’t stall.

“I didn’t feel like I was making [Cilic] wait until I realized — only when I sat down, it was not even during the conversation I had with him at the net — that actually Marin had hit a serve once while I wasn’t in position yet. And I thought he was working on his serve, which I thought was really odd, but it dawned on me that he must have been upset for a while and I told the umpire, ‘Why didn’t you tell me? I did not know that he was upset.’ He goes, ‘Well, I figured you knew.’ I was, like, ‘Okay. Here we are again in a place where you think that I know, and then nobody knows. It’s a misunderstanding there.’

“But the thing is also obviously when he sets his foot down to get ready for the serve, he’s not quite ready yet. He still takes 10 bounces. I’m not in the mood to stand there and just be (like), ‘Here I am so you can get ready. Start bouncing already, and I rock up when I feel like it’s also I’m ready to go.’

“So I just feel like it was a misunderstanding on many levels. I didn’t understand it and figure it out. I guess I’m just ‘new’ to the new tour.”


In the third set there was actual match drama, with Cilic recovering a break for 3-3 and eventually forcing a tiebreaker. On the first point of the ‘breaker, Federer overruled the umpire and gave his opponent an ace even though the umpire had come down from the chair and called it out. Federer’s tennis was as good as his sportsmanship, too, as he eventually ran away with the tiebreaker seven points to four.

With momentum in hand, Federer raced away with the fourth via another 6-2 scoreline.

“(It was a) very good match for me, I thought,” the 20-time Grand Slam champion commented. “A bit of up-and-downs in the second and third sets…. I was able to attain a solid level once he did break back in the third set and things were looking dangerous for me. I was able to step up a gear, stay with him, and then pull away from him. I think that gives me a lot of confidence.”

Federer will face Dominik Koepfer on Saturday with a spot in the fourth round on the line.

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