Italian tennis star Matteo Berrettini was “surprised” when Roger Federer withdrew from the French Open on Sunday ahead of their fourth-round encounter. Berrettini had been looking forward to some “revenge” for his 0-2 record against Federer, including a straight-sets loss in the 2019 Wimbledon quarterfinals.
“I mean I was surprised, obviously,” the big-hitting Berrettini, 25, told Steve Weissman of Tennis Channel. “I was already thinking about the match, how I lost against him twice so I was really looking for my revenge. Unfortunately, it couldn’t happen. I guess he’s still struggling a little bit with his knee. I wish him good luck and hopefully we’re going to see him back on grass.”
Federer has won eight of his 20 Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon, and he pulled out in order to preserve his knee and focus his efforts on the grass season. Wimbledon starts June 28.
Federer’s announcement came after the 39-year-old legend survived a 3 hour, 34-minute, 4-set encounter with German left-hander Dominik Koepfer that went until 12:45 a.m. Paris time Sunday.
“After discussions with my team, I’ve decided I will need to pull out of the French Open today,” Federer, the 20-time Grand Slam champion, wrote on Twitter. “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 quickily on my road to recovery. I am thrilled to have gotten 3 matches under my belt. There is no greater feeling than being back on the court. See everyone soon.”
Federer’s decision brought backlash from around the tennis world, with John McEnroe saying on NBC that his withdrawal combined with Serena Williams’ loss in the fourth round Sunday was a “bummer.”
“I understand it but I don’t like it,” Patrick McEnroe said in a video posted to Twitter of Federer’s withdrawal. “To me, you shouldn’t have shown up for the tournament if you knew that this was a strong likelihood which it sounds like he knew it was going in.”
He added: “This is a major, it’s not a tuneup tournament, it’s the French Open. I hope that Federer comes back again next year and can play in front of a full audience.”
Berrettini, the No. 9 seed, advanced over No. 8 Federer in a walkover and will face the winner between world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and fellow Italian Lorenzo Musetti, 19, in the quarterfinals Wednesday.
“It never happened to me and actually now I have three days off,” Berrettini said. “So with my team we just decided to have a day off [Sunday] and [Monday] practice…I really hope that it’s going to work.”
A third Italian man, 19-year-old Jannik Sinner, was also due to face 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal on Monday. It’s the first time in a major in the Open Era that three Italian men are into the round of 16.
“They are really impressive,” Berrettini said of the 19-year-olds. “At their age, I think I was playing Futures and Challengers and they’re here playing at the best level possible so obviously their tennis skills are impressive but the mental skills that they have at this ago so young is something that I didn’t expect.”