On paper, Roger Federer’s 6-3, 6-1, 7-6(8) win against #NextGenATP Norwegian Casper Ruud to reach the fourth round at Roland Garros was nothing out of the ordinary. But for the 37-year-old Federer, who shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, it was a trip down memory lane.
When the Swiss first competed in the Roland Garros main draw, Ruud, now 20, was just five months old.
“I feel that my 20 years on the Tour went too fast almost,” Federer said. “I like to think about Florence in ’98 or the juniors before, because I had a lot of pleasure. When you play against people like Casper Ruud, you ask, ‘How was it at the time?’ When I started on the Tour he was hardly born.”
In fact, Federer admitted before facing the 20-year-old that he actually knew more about the Norwegian’s father, former World No. 39 Christian Ruud, than he did about Casper. Christian reached the third round at 1999 Roland Garros, which was Federer’s first major main draw.
“Many people have memories which count a lot for your life, for your daily life, especially when you see an old pal talking about what you lived in the past and you think about what’s coming up with him or with your family for the future,” said Federer, who is competing at the clay-court Grand Slam for the first time since 2015. “But I guess it’s mainly due to the fact that I didn’t come here for many years. I started here about 20 years ago. It’s probably due to Casper Ruud.”
Federer’s two-hour, 11-minute victory against the younger Ruud came in his 400th Grand Slam match. The 20-time major champion is now 345-55 at the majors. Nobody else has won 300 matches at the Slams in the Open Era.
“It’s true I played many matches in Grand Slam tournaments, and it’s even more pleasant to do this in Roland Garros, because I have a lot of records, milestones from Wimbledon or the US Open. But doing anything at Roland [Garros] is very special, because I played a lot here. It was my first Grand Slam where I was in the main draw,” Federer said. “It’s the closest one to Basel, and this counts, as well. 400 is still a lot, eh? Because I played many matches. My 1,000th [tour-level] victory touched me a lot, moved me.”
<img alt="Roger Federer makes the fourth round at Roland Garros on Friday” width=”100%” src=”https://www.atptour.com/-/media/images/news/2019/05/31/15/19/federer-roland-garros-2019-friday-ruud-wide.jpg?la=en”>
Federer is now 7-1 since his return to clay at the Mutua Madrid Open. The third seed had not played on the surface since the 2016 Internazionali BNL d’Italia. And he has not dropped a set through three matches at Roland Garros, losing serve just twice.
“I’m very happy. A few months ago I didn’t know what to expect with anything, really. At this point, now I know where my level is at. I still don’t know exactly where my absolute best is, but I feel like it could be there. Maybe not. I’m happy to find out,” Federer said. “I’m happy I’m putting myself in a position like this in a fourth round of the French Open after not having played [here for] so many years here. I think for me the first goal has been reached by getting this deep into the tournament, and knowing where the game is at, knowing where the fitness is, the mind.”
Federer will try to reach the quarter-finals here for the 11th time in his past 12 appearances (since 2005) when he faces Argentine Leonardo Mayer, against whom he holds a 3-0 FedEx ATP Head2Head series lead.
“I’m very pleased how I’m feeling and how I’m playing, and still trying to stay true to playing freely and with nothing to lose, even though I know I will be the favourite in the next game,” Federer said. “But regardless, I’m going to try to play as free as I can.”