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Roger Federer withdraws from French Open

2021 French Open - Day Seven

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 3: Roger Federer of Switzerland during day 7 of Roland-Garros 2021, French Open, a Grand Slam tennis tournament at Roland Garros stadium on June 5, 2021 in Paris, France. (Photo by John Berry/Getty Images)

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PARIS -- Roger Federer always viewed this French Open as a step in his comeback from a pair of knee operations, rather than somewhere he seriously could pursue a title. So after a grueling third-round victory, and with Wimbledon just weeks away, Federer decided some rest was in order.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion withdrew from Roland Garros on Sunday, a day after he eked our a four-set win that lasted until nearly 1 a.m. — and a day before he was supposed to face No. 9 seed Matteo Berrettini with a quarterfinal berth at stake.

“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,” Federer said in a statement released by the French tennis federation. “I am thrilled to have gotten 3 matches under my belt. There is no greater feeling than being back on court.”

It was part of a double dose of bad news for the French Open and tennis fans: Hours after Federer’s announcement, 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams left the women’s bracket with a 6-3, 7-5 loss in the fourth round to Elena Rybakina.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Federer, who turns 40 on Aug. 8, was competing in his first major tournament since the 2020 Australian Open. Shortly after that event, he had the first operation on his right knee and wound up missing the rest of last season.

He had played just three matches this year before arriving in Paris for the clay-court Slam, where he won the trophy in 2009 and was the runner-up to 13-time champion Rafael Nadal four other times.

Federer had made clear last month that he did not see himself as ready to contend for the French Open title — “I’m just realistic and I know I will not win the French, and whoever thought I would or could win it is wrong,” he said — and instead had his sights on Wimbledon, the grass-court Slam he has won a men’s-record eight times.

Play begins at the All England Club on June 28. Federer is scheduled to prepare for that by playing a tournament on grass in Halle, Germany.

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