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Roger Federer Shows Good Sportsmanship, Even Better Tennis in French Open Win Over Cilic

Roger Federer of Switzerland argues with the umpire during his second round match against Marin Cilic of Croatia at the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 03 June 2021. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT


By Ricky Dimon

Roger Federer ran into some trouble with both Marin Cilic and the chair umpire during second-round action at the French Open on Thursday.

He passed the test with flying colors–and with some good sportsmanship.

Despite being hit with an unusual time violation while returning serve and also being pushed to a third-set tiebreaker with the score even at one set apiece, Federer ended up beating Cilic 6-2, 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-2 after two hours and 35 minutes.

The 39-year-old incurred the time violation with his opponent serving at 3-1 in the second. 

Roger Federer of Switzerland argues with the umpire during his second round match against Marin Cilic of Croatia at the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 03 June 2021. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT

“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.’

Marin Cilic of Croatia in action against Roger Federer of Switzerland during their second round match at the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 03 June 2021. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT

“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.

“So I just feel like it was a misunderstanding on many levels. I didn’t understand it.”

He ended with a joke: “I guess I’m just new to the new tour.”

There is nothing new, though, about Federer showing good sportsmanship. The 13-time winner of the ATP’s Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award gave Cilic the first point of the third-set tiebreaker after the Croat’s first serve was called out. The chair umpire got down from his chair and confirmed the serve to be out, but Federer said it hit the line and willingly conceded the point.

The early deficit didn’t matter, however. Federer quickly took care of his two service points for a 2-1 lead and maintained control the rest of the way.

From there it was one-way traffic for the 2009 Roland Garros champion. 

Roger Federer of Switzerland celebrates winning against Marin Cilic of Croatia during their second round match at the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 03 June 2021. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT

“(It was a) very good match for me, I thought,” he assessed. “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.”

Ricky contributes to
 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.