LONDON – Eight-time champion Roger Federer survived a massive scare against Adrian Mannarino before qualifying for the second round at Wimbledon on Tuesday when the Frenchman retired with a knee injury after slipping on the pitch.
The game was set at 6-4 6-7 (3) 3-6 6-2 with Federer forcing a fifth set before Mannarino, celebrating his 33rd birthday, decided he couldn’t continue.
“It’s awful,” Federer said during his interview on the pitch. “It shows that one hit can change the outcome of a game, a season, a career. I wish him all the best and I hope he will recover quickly so that we can see him again on the courts.
“He could have won the game at the end. Obviously he was the best player so I was really lucky.
– Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) June 29, 2021
Sixth-seeded Federer was serving with a 4-2 lead in the fourth set when 41st-seeded Mannarino slipped while attempting a return and twisted his right knee.
The Frenchman received medical attention on center court and limped back to finish the set before shaking hands with Federer, who is now 7-0 down against him.
“You don’t get a lot of package deals throughout a career and you also try not to have that happen to you,” Federer added. “It’s a reminder how fast things are going. But of course I’m obviously happy that I can have another chance for another game here.
“I worked really hard and in the end I had a great time here today. It was great fun until the end, obviously.
The 20-time Grand Slam winner entered Tuesday’s game after losing just one set in his previous six encounters against the southpaw, including three on the manicured grass of Wimbledon.
Federer started off on the wrong foot, going 0-40 in the opener, but managed to hold onto serve and quickly found his pace and nimble footwork to put Mannarino under constant pressure.
It wasn’t until his sixth break point opportunity in the first set that the Swiss finally managed to convert and he did so in style with a breathtaking backhand cross pass.
The second set was on serve before Federer completely lost control of his forehand in the tiebreaker and four consecutive errors helped Mannarino tie the game.
Federer knows the All England Club like the back of his hand, but the rust of having only played eight games this year and missing most of 2020 after two knee surgeries started showing up in his game.
After an early exchange of breaks, Mannarino got a second break in the third set as Federer started struggling to land his first serves and his mistakes multiplied.
As the center court crowd began to face the prospect of Federer leaving Wimbledon in the first round for the first time since 2002, the 20-time major champion responded by upping his game.
After saving a break point to retain his serve in the opener of the fourth set, Federer quickly took a 3-0 lead and appeared the dominant player and on track to force a decisive set before his opponent was injured.
Federer, the oldest man in the singles table at 39, will meet either Frenchman Richard Gasquet or Japanese Yuichi Sugita for a place in the third round.
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