If it was his parting match at Roland Garros, it would be a poignant finish for the Swiss star, who has long been a fan favorite in Paris because of his elegant attacking game and his fluent French.
The move to withdraw also drew some criticism.
“That’s not how it works,” said Paul McNamee, the former Australian Open tournament director, in a post on Twitter after Federer indicated that he might withdraw. “You’re not at a candy store, able to pick and choose which matches you play, as your actions affect others, and the tournament.”
Federer’s withdrawal must give pause to Koepfer, who lost a tight match to a player who chose not to play the next round. It also impacts the top half of the draw with Berrettini getting a round to rest before playing a quarterfinal against the winner of the fourth round match between Djokovic and the 19-year-old Italian Lorenzo Musetti.
“I understand it, but I don’t like it,” Patrick McEnroe, an ESPN analyst and former U.S. Davis Cup captain, said of Federer’s withdrawal.
“It’s just not a great look to pull out of a tournament in the middle,” McEnroe said. “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.”
Federer has been an exceptionally durable champion. He has never retired during a tour-level match and had never withdrawn during a Grand Slam singles tournament, although he has withdrawn from four regular tour events, most recently the 2019 Italian Open, also held on clay.
Daniil Medvedev, the No. 2 seed, said he stopped watching Federer’s match at 11:30 p.m. and knew Federer would be in pain the next day. Medvedev said he understood Federer’s decision to save himself for Wimbledon, where he has a far better chance of winning. “Wimbledon is always, even when he will be 50 years old, is a great chance for him,” Medvedev said after his straight-sets win over Cristian Garín of Chile.