Roger Federer defies the sands of time to move into French Open last-16

Roger Federer under the lights in Paris

Roger Federer survived a soulless late-night scrap with German Dominik Koepfer to reach the fourth round of the French Open.

Roland Garros’ new night session matches are being held behind closed doors this week because of a 9pm curfew in Paris, and Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have all taken their turn playing to an empty stadium.

But the sight of tennis’ biggest superstar, who attracts sell-out crowds wherever he goes, fighting for his life in the tournament in such circumstances was particularly jarring.

Had he lost, it could well have been the saddest of farewells to an event that has loved him arguably more than any other, and that looked a distinct possibility for nearly all of the three hours and 35 minutes they were on court.

Federer searched and searched for his game, finding it in patches only for the errors to creep in again, but he eventually secured a 7-6 (5) 6-7 (3) 7-6 (4) 7-5 victory and a place in the last 16 against Italy’s Matteo Berrettini.

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