Roger Federer should not be criticised for pulling out of the French Open and has "earned the right to do anything he wants", claims 18-time Grand Slam champion Chris Evert.
Federer revealed he was withdrawing from Roland Garros due to concerns over a knee complaint, saying he did not want it to flare ahead of his return to Wimbledon this summer.
The 39-year-old’s announcement came a day after his gruelling four-set match with Germany’s Dominik Koepfer, which finished at 12:44am local time and featured three tie-breaks.
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Matteo Berrettini will get a walkover in the fourth round, while Federer’s withdrawal also ended his collision course with world number one Novak Djokovic ahead of a possible quarter-final meeting.
"I think that Roger has earned the right to do anything he wants in tennis right now,” said Eurosport expert Evert.
“He has played three matches and last night was a very long match. He said I am going to see how my body feels, he’s 39 years old, he went into this tournament for practice matches and I think he surprised himself how well he did. I honestly don’t think he expected to get to the second week.
"Wimbledon is his dream, that’s the golden tournament for him and that’s where his game with the less rallies, more about serving, quicker points, and that’s truly what his goal is. He should be excused for any withdrawal he has."
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Federer, who has one Roland Garros title compared to eight at Wimbledon, is bidding to reclaim his outright lead in the race for most Grand Slam titles on the men’s tour. He currently shares the honour with Rafael Nadal on 20, with Djokovic on 18.
Alex Corretja said Federer's decision made sense, especially given his chances of winning the title at Roland Garros were “practically impossible”.
"I think we all understand Roger’s decision. The goal was already set up, he needed matches, he needed rhythm,” he said.
“Even if it is painful that he won’t be in the tournament any more, I totally understand his decision. He needs to take care.
“After such a long time without playing, the risk is that you start playing matches, you win matches, but then some other issues come up into your body – not only what had been hurting before but it can go into another muscle, lower backs, hamstrings, shoulder etc.
"I think it is a smart decision – he knows perfectly that it doesn’t really matter to go for more. He already knows that the chances to win the tournament are virtually impossible and I think this is something we all understand. For the grass court season he is going to be great, which is the goal of the season for him."
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Federer, who turns 40 in August, has not won a Grand Slam since the 2018 Australian Open as injuries have inevitably caught up with him.
Six-time Grand Slam champion Boris Becker added: "The long match against Dominik Koepfer was borderline for Roger. He hadn't played a big tournament for a long time, let alone over five sets on clay. About any other player you would have said, 'How can he just throw Koepfer out and then quit?'
"But Roger has earned that nimbus, he is perhaps the most beloved player of all time. He pointed out to us at the press conference that there's a good chance he won't be able to continue playing. I think that's fair."
Federer does not have long to recover, with the grass court season already on the horizon and Wimbledon getting underway on June 28.
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Watch all the action from the 2021 French Open live on Eurosport, eurosport.co.uk and the Eurosport app with 13-time champion Rafael Nadal eyeing a remarkable 14th title at his favourite event and 2020 Roland Garros sensation Iga Swiatek aiming to replicate her stunning triumph.
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