Roger Federer had to battle through a tough four-setter on Thursday against former World No. 3 Marin Cilic. Normally, needing to squeeze through a second-round match would not be great news for the 20-time Grand Slam champion. But the 39-year-old was pleased after his victory.
“I feel like I surprised myself a little bit,” Federer told Tennis Channel. “I didn’t expect myself to play that well or to have the energy left at the end like this and being able to keep on serving so consistently at the end was great.”
In the first round, Federer needed just one hour and 33 minutes to defeat qualifier Denis Istomin. But against Cilic, who gave the Swiss less time and space, the eighth seed needed to claw through a third-set tie-break to avoid falling behind two sets to one.
“This is what I need right now. Actually, I think I felt really good on the court,” Federer said. “For me it will be interesting to see how I will feel tomorrow, because clearly it will feel very different from Istomin, [having] two days off to Cilic, [having] one day off. That will be a good test for me.
“Overall I’m very happy how I’m feeling and also confident that tomorrow I’ll feel fine somehow.”
This is Federer’s third tournament since the 2020 Australian Open because of two right knee surgeries he had last year. But fans are excited to have the 103-time tour-level titlist back and to watch him dance across the court again. Even Federer noticed a video on social media focusing solely on his movement.
Dancing on clouds 🕺☁️and floating above the sand 🏖 https://t.co/8GKEPYSzzM
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) June 2, 2021
“We rarely see those shots of a tennis player because usually it’s always the whole body and they talk about what they do with the hand. Yes, you talk about movement, but not in detail like this. That’s why also I thought it would be nice to retweet,” Federer said. “I even mentioned it to my kids. When I tell them in tennis about footwork, I tell them, ‘Look how much I move my feet for one shot or for one point.’
“I think maybe it’s really interesting for junior kids as well to see what goes into it. And even though it looks all relaxed at the top, there’s a lot of work going on at the bottom.”
Before Roland Garros, Federer declared that he would not win this tournament. After winning two matches, he said, “I still do believe there’s no way I’m going to go really, really super deep here or go past the Novak section.” Federer is focusing on his next match against German lefty Dominik Koepfer.
“The first round I didn’t surprise myself per se, but now in the second round, I did,” Federer said. “Now can I keep it up and how will the body react? We’ll see. The mind is getting stronger, I can feel it. I have more clarity, I have more confidence growing in me.”