10sBalls.com • TennisBalls.com

Saturday Night at French Open Tennis • Federer vs. Koepfer

Roger Federer takes on Dominik Koepfer at Roland Garros tonight. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT

By Ricky Dimon

Roger Federer will try to play his way into the second week of the French Open when he goes up against Dominik Koepfer on Saturday night.

It’s hard to find anyone on tour these days who has not played a match behind closed doors since the coronavirus began, but that is the case with Federer. This night-session match on Court Philippe-Chatrier will be without fans because of the 9:00 pm curfew in France, making it a unique situation for the 39-year-old. He played in 2020 only before the Covid-19 pandemic began, and prior to Roland Garros his only 2021 tournaments–Doha and Geneva–welcomed a limited-capacity crowd.

As a result this will be a rare “first” for Federer, but there is no reason to think he will have any trouble adapting to a new situation. The 20-time Grand Slam champion certainly hasn’t had any problem finding his French Open footing in his first appearance at this event since 2019. Federer lost right away in Geneva to Pablo Andujar, but so far this fortnight he has cruised past Denis Istomin and Marin Cilic–dropping just one set to Cilic in the process.

“Very good match for me,” he said after advancing past the Croat. “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.

“You have got to stay on top of things and I was able to almost find another gear, which he couldn’t, and I think that was very nice for me. So I’m very happy.”

Roger Federer in action at Roland Garros. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT

This will be a first for Koepfer, too, as he has never faced Federer (he has also never faced Rafael Nadal, while being 0-1 lifetime against Novak Djokovic). The 59th-ranked German earned his place in this matchup by beating Mathias Bourge in straight sets and Taylor Fritz in four.

Prior to upsetting Fritz, Koepfer had defeated only one Top 45 player since Acapulco in March–and that one player was a slumping Benoit Paire via a 6-7(8), 7-6(5), 6-4 decision in Geneva.

The 27-year-old is making just his second appearance in the third round of a Grand Slam and even without fans this will be a big occasion for him. Meanwhile, with two matches under his belt Federer should only be getting better and better as he progresses in Paris.

As a result, a relatively comfortable win for the Swiss great can be expected.

Pick: Federer in 3

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.