Roger Federer has stunned the tennis world by pulling out of the French Open.
The Swiss maestro took to Twitter to announce his withdrawal from the year’s second grand slam, saying he needs to look after his body.
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“After discussions with my team, I’ve decided I will need to pull out of the French Open today,” he said in a statement.
“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.
“I am thrilled to have gotten three matches under my belt. There is no greater feeling that being back on court. See everyone soon!”
French Open tournament director Guy Forget said: “The Roland Garros tournament is sorry about the withdrawal of Roger Federer, who put up an incredible fight last night.
“We wish him all the best for the rest of the season.”
This year was the first time Federer had contested the French Open since 2015.
The 20-time grand slam champion had played well in his first three outings at Roland Garros, defeating Denis Istomin, Dominik Koepfer and Marin Cilic.
Federer is one of the most loved players tennis has ever seen but not everyone was happy with his decision to quit midway through the tournament, just so his body holds up for Wimbledon.
Former star turned ESPN analyst Patrick McEnroe told the New York Times: “I understand it, but I don’t like it. It’s just not a great look to pull out of a tournament in the middle.
“It’s one thing if you sprain an ankle badly and finish a match on adrenaline. Those things happen. But it’s another thing when you kind of go into a tournament knowing that you probably aren’t going to be able to really finish the tournament.
“Roger can’t expect that he’s going to play the French Open and not have some physically demanding matches in the first three or four rounds. That’s kind of inevitable.
“Look, he’s trying to get himself ready to make a run at Wimbledon, which I believe he’s done. And a lot of people say he’s Roger Federer. He can do whatever he wants. He’s earned this right, and I understand that, but I still don’t like it.”
Ex-firebrand John McEnroe — Patrick’s brother — was also critical.
“Perhaps Roger might have done the magnanimous thing and defaulted match point up (against Koepfer) … but that’s easy for me to say from Malibu,” he said in commentary for NBC.
Former Australian Open tournament director Paul McNamee was another upset with Federer’s decision. “You’re not at a candy store, able to pick and choose which matches you play, as your actions affect others, and the tournament,” he wrote on Twitter when rumours started to swirl the Swiss star might pull out.
He found himself in the unusual position of playing his third round match against Koepfer past midnight and in front of no crowd. Federer battled over three and a half hours until well past midnight to reach the last 16 with a 7-6 6-7 7-6 7-5 win over the world No. 59.
He was due to tackle Matteo Berrettini for a place in the quarter-finals.
However, having undergone two knee surgeries in 2020, the Swiss star had admitted there were doubts over whether he’d make it.
Federer is playing only his third tournament since last year’s Australian Open and has always said Wimbledon is his main goal.
After his four-set marathon against Koepfer on Sunday, the writing was on the wall.
“I’d prefer to be in Rafa’s or Novak’s shoes right now. I’m feeling good. If I’m playing well, I’m winning. I don’t have that feeling right now,” Federer said in the first indication that he was not planning to reappear for his last 16 clash with Berrettini.
“I need to decide if I keep on playing or is it not too much risk at this moment to keep on pushing. Is this just a perfect way to just take a rest?
“Because I don’t have the week in between here and Halle, like normal, to see what’s best now if you count back from Wimbledon.”
Originally published as Angry backlash to Federer bombshell