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After Federer states "one point can change a career," Serena's Wimbledon bid eerily ends with injury
On Tuesday, Roger Federer's opponent, Adrian Mannarino, was forced to retire in their fifth set having earlier slipped on a closed Centre Court. A short time later, Serena Williams was struck by a similar fate in her opener with Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
Published Jun 29, 2021
PRESS CONFERENCE: Roger Federer after his first-round win—and as he hears of Serena Williams' retirement.
“It shows that one point can change a match, a season, a career,” Roger Federer said after his 6-4, 6-7 (3), 3-6, 6-2, ret. win over Adrian Mannarino at Wimbledon on Tuesday.
It took just one slip from Mannarino to change his day from promising to disastrous. An hour earlier, he had been up two sets to one over Federer, with a break point to start the fourth. The Frenchman had, by Federer’s own admission, been the better player. But as he tried to plant his foot behind the baseline midway through the fourth set, Mannarino twisted his knee and never recovered. He retired after the first point of the fifth set.
“It was just a terrible ending, one you don’t like to see,” Federer said. “I just felt really down, especially with everything I went through with my knee. That was his knee, as well. I hope he’s not out for a long time.”
That wouldn’t be the last terrible ending of the day on Centre Court. In the final match, Serena Williams also slipped, appeared to pull her hamstring, and had to retire from her first-round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich after just six games. In both cases, the roof was closed on Centre Court, which typically makes air inside muggier and the grass slipperier.
When Federer was told that of Serena’s retirement, his first reaction was disbelief.
“C’mon,” he said. But he understood how hard it can be to stay on your feet out there.
“I do feel it feels a tad more slippery maybe under the roof,” he said. “With the wind and all that stuff, it takes the moisture out of the grass.”
“If you see what happened to him, you know how difficult and complicated it can be to move sometimes,” Federer said of Mannarino. “I had one small, tiny slip as I was doing a serve and volley. That’s more the focus. Not wanting to lose in the first round, so you want to fight against all that stuff.”
Indeed, Federer moved cautiously and hit tentatively for much of this match. He started it by slicing his backhand and settling back into defensive positions. He shanked his forehand several times, and appeared hesitant to come over his backhand or pummel his mid-court forehand, which has always been his bread-and-butter shot. Federer was four of 13 on break points, made four unforced errors on his forehand side alone in the second-set tiebreaker, and was broken at love in the third set. Things got so dire that, after one mishit, all Federer could do was look back at his coaches and give them a rueful smile. When he faced a break point in the opening game of the fourth set, his Wimbledon campaign looked all but over.
But Federer still had his serve. He hit 16 aces, and he saved that break point to start the fourth with a service winner. That sparked his best, most aggressive run of the day, and he was up a break and in control of the set when Mannarino fell.
“I tried to definitely mix up my game a little bit more again towards the fourth set because clearly it wasn’t working in the third,” Federer said. “He was getting too comfortable from the baseline, taking charge from there.
“I think I was maybe turning things around a little bit. I would have been interested to see if I get through that fourth set normally.”
Federer blamed first-round jitters, and Mannarino doing a “good job,” especially with his wide serve in the ad court, for his shaky start.
“I played against a good opponent today, so I knew the danger was always going to be there if I don’t get on a roll early…” he said. “As the match went on, I think he got into the match better and better.”
This wasn’t just a survive-and-advance type of day on Centre Court; it was a stay-upright-and-advance type of day. Federer did that, and advanced to the second round, where he’ll play Richard Gasquet. Federer has traditionally owned this Frenchman, but he’ll likely have to play better than he did today to own him again.