D.he “Night Session”, i.e. the night shift, at the Grand Slam tournaments, is one of those things. At the French Open it is new to the program this year, at the Australian and US Open the late games are already a tradition. Ideally, they promise top-class sport at the best TV airtime. But because tennis is very difficult to plan, things can take longer. That only has to do with the famous “prime time” in passing. This happened, for example, in the third round match between Roger Federer and the German Dominik Köpfer late on Saturday evening.
When Federer finally turned the match point into his hard-won 7: 6, 6: 7, 7: 6, 7: 5 success, it was already well after midnight. The final rally of the 3:35 hour long match at 12:44 a.m. should only have been watched live by the really die-hard tennis fans.
Not even in the USA, where the match lasted the evening before thanks to the time difference, but was only broadcast by the paid streaming provider Peacock instead of on television. In any case, nobody was in the stadium – apart from those directly involved in the game, of course. There is still a pandemic curfew in France. The spectators have to leave the tournament grounds by 9 p.m.
Koepfer stands up to Federer
This match would have deserved more spectators. Because the outsider Koepfer had long demanded everything from his idol Federer in a fascinating exchange of blows. The match was by no means high-quality. Above all, Federer played too far below his possibilities. But it was always exciting because Koepfer made an uncomfortable opponent.
“He’s really annoying Federer,” said Boris Becker as a TV commentator at Eurosport. Up until a few years ago, Koepfer had played tennis parallel to his studies at college in New Orleans, and had maximum flirted with a professional career. On Saturday he impressed Federer on the Court Philippe Chatrier.
Now, of course, one has to admit that the Red Ashes of Paris have never belonged to Federer’s territory. The “sand court king” Rafael Nadal has been ruling here for 16 years. Federer won the tournament only once, namely in 2009, when Nadal suffered one of his two defeats to date at Roland Garros.
It is also true that Federer is now almost 40 years old and has just had to undergo two knee operations. After returning to the professional tour, he lost two of his first three matches in March and May. It was only in the first two rounds of Paris that he reminded at least temporarily of the player who had made such a lasting impression on his sport over the past two decades.
But Koepfer had made life difficult for the “Maestro” right from the start. Because of the high humidity in the Paris evening hours, both players were sweaty after just a few minutes, and the clay court became more humid and therefore significantly slower. Koepfer took advantage of this skillfully. He managed to force Federer into long rallies. “I was already thinking that I could come online much, much more often,” he said afterwards. “But it’s much slower at night. I had respect for his backhand. “
When Koepfer pulled away to 4: 2 in the third set, the increasingly tired looking Federer even lost faith in himself. “I didn’t think I would turn the match around,” he said afterwards. But then he did. And for Koepfer that had a very simple reason: “In the crucial moments he probably wins the match simply because he is Roger Federer,” he said. “Roger is Roger. It’s unbelievable what he’s still doing at 39 years of age. “
How things will go on for Federer at the French Open is still unclear. In the early Sunday morning hours after the exhausting match against Koepfer, he deliberately left it open whether he would even play for his round of 16 match against the Italian Matteo Berrettini. Even before the tournament he had announced that this time his goal was not to win the tournament. Rather, it is about getting match practice after the long break. Federer’s focus is on the grass season, the Grand Slam highlight Wimbledon, where he is the record winner with eight titles. By the way, there is no “night session” there.