Roger Federer survived a major scare on Tuesday to reach the second round of the Wimbledon after Adrian Mannarino retired at the start of the fifth set. Federer’s quest for a ninth title at The Championships got off to a difficult start when the Swiss maestro lost two of the opening three sets. The 39-year-old did well to win the fourth before the Frenchman retired as he was unable to put any weight on his right leg following a slip behind the baseline. Federer was level with Mannarino, who was celebrating his 33rd birthday, at 6-4, 6-7, 3-6, 6-2 when the match came to a halt.
At 2-4, with Federer serving, Mannarino slipped when split-stepping behind the baseline. He immediately required on-court treatment for a right knee complaint. Mannarino attempted to continue playing, but at the beginning of the fifth set, he withdrew from the match. The Swiss legend needed two hours and 44 minutes of play on Centre Court to make it to the next round. “It’s awful,” said Federer, in an on-court interview.
Admitting that he got “lucky”, Federer wished Mannarino speedy recovery. “It shows that one shot can change the outcome of a match, a season, a career,” he added. “I wish him all the best and I hope he recovers quickly so we see him back on the courts. He could have won the match at the end. Obviously he was the better player, so I definitely got a bit lucky.”
“You don’t get many walkovers throughout a career and you try also not to have it happen to yourself. It’s a reminder how quickly it goes. But of course, I’m obviously happy I can get another chance for another match here. I worked very hard and at the end I enjoyed myself out here today. It was great fun until the end, obviously.”
The first set was a straight forward task for Federer, winning 22 of 26 service points as he sealed the 39-minute opener with a backhand winner. Mannarino came back strongly in the second set as took the set into a tie-breaker. Four straight forehand errors from Federer handed Mannarino a 6/1 lead in the tie-break. The Frenchman had little difficulty in seeing out the set after that.
With momentum on his side, Mannarino was unstoppable in the second set as he sealed a two-sets-to-one lead with a forehand volley winner. After saving a break point in the opening game of the fourth set, Federer, who improved to a 102-13 match record at the All England Club, returned to his usual best. He won 11 of the next 12 points for a 3-0 advantage as he closed out the set without any trouble. He will next play France’s Richard Gasquet or Yuichi Sugita of Japan.
“I tried to cut down the length of points a little bit,” said Federer. “I thought he found a nice groove from the baseline. He’s famous with that shovel backhand. He creates a lot of problems for so many players and he did the same again today on the grass against me. That’s why I tried to maybe cut down on the length of points a little bit.
“It worked well, and once I got the break, obviously, I was able to maybe loosen up a little bit up and then everything ended. At the end, it was a very up and down match overall I thought. We were both… trying to figure out who could enjoy the baseline a little bit more than the other. But I felt like I had to adjust my game more than he had to, and that was credit to him of course.”