August 3, 2021

Roger Federer, the referee and the towel of discord

The spectators were listless in the stands, stunned by the moist heat of a stormy sky, Thursday, June 3 afternoon. Roger Federer led a set to zero against the Croatian Marin Cilic (47e world), when he suddenly woke up the Philippe-Chatrier court, after an hour of play. The Swiss had just wasted two breakout balls at 3-1, he went to his briefcase, in the basket provided for this purpose on the edge of the short – a chore reserved for ball collectors until the pandemic – when the chair umpire, Frenchman Emmanuel Joseph, gave him a warning. Federer immediately came to the foot of his chair.

“- You gave me a warning for what?

– For overrun of time, because he is ready to serve and you are not ready to raise.

– OK, I come from there, I go there, and I come back [montrant les différents endroits du court].

– Okay, but we have to do it a little faster …

– Faster ? Do you think I’m slow?

– Well, a little faster gait, that will help.

(…)

– Are you listening or talking? I listened to you before, now you listen to me too once. “

Five minutes of a dialogue of the deaf followed, under the bewildered eyes of the thousand spectators who tried to reason with him (“It’s okay, RodGER”, “You’re the best, RodGER”). To settle the dispute, Federer calls on his opponent, known … to be the player on the circuit the slowest to serve, with Rafael Nadal. Cilic then makes him understand that he made him wait several times since the start of the match, then the two players return to their places. The Swiss ultimately lost the game, but did not lose heart. Despite his status, the Swiss did not appreciate being brought back to earth, even beaten. At 39 well packed, his foot no longer has its liveliness of yesteryear; to hear oneself qualify as « lent » stung him to the quick.

“Excuse me for not knowing all the rules”

At the change of sides, he calls the referee again, explains to him that he had not seen that the Croatian was ready to serve. Emmanuel Joseph, who isn’t impressed by the 20 Grand Slam legend, tells him he thought it was obvious. ” You thought ? Well you think wrong. As you thought wrong just before ”, the Bâlois strikes him, icy. ” How many matches have I played recently? Not a lot ! So excuse me for not knowing all the rules. “ Back in Grand Slam after a year and a half of absence and a double arthroscopy in the right knee undergone in 2020, still 8e world – thanks to the rankings freeze – may have forgotten a few details.

Marin Cilic, he does not let himself be distracted and wins the set to pick up one round everywhere. Awakened by the exchange, the Swiss finally recovers his spirits and his tennis with, and is no longer worried about the rest of the match, which he finally wins (6-2, 2-6, 7-6, 6-2) .

After the meeting, the Swiss explained that a big misunderstanding was at the origin of the dispute. “I’m kind of new to this new tour, which is pretty exciting. I still don’t understand the rhythm. But it gave the game a bit of heat, which was nice. “

At the microphone of Cédric Pioline, Roger Federer finds a smile. “I surprised myself a bit, I didn’t think I could play two and a half hours at this level against Marin. There are times when I played very well, especially in the tie-break, it shows me that I still have a little energy left, it’s important for confidence. “

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“Very happy to be in the third round”

After a first round against a modest opponent (Ouzbèke Denis Istomin, 204e world), the former world number 1 was reassured with this first test against Cilic, long accustomed to the world top 10.

“I’m very happy to be in the third round. I still have a little difficulty in defense, but it’s completely normal, especially on clay, continues Federer, who arrived at Porte d’Auteuil with only three games left since his return in March. I was able to raise my level of play. We’ll see the next round, he’s a left-hander [l’Allemand Dominik Köpfer, 59e mondial], so that will change everything, he may make fewer mistakes, he may use angles more. “

His third game at Porte d’Auteuil is scheduled for Friday. By then, Roger Federer should have time to go over the rules.

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