Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks ahead to the latest in tennis. Today, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews day 9 of the 2021 French Open.
How dare you do this to us, Roger Federer?
How could you sign up to compete in the year’s second Grand Slam, the one played on your worst surface, yet decide to leave before your time? How could you compete like a madman one night in the third round, only to decide to pull out the following day? How could you look ahead at your favourite Grand Slam when our hearts are still firmly enamoured with you? How could you decide that this year in 2021 is the time you decide to do the thing you’ve always avoided doing?
In other words, how could you behave exactly like others might have?
Look, the above may sound all haughty and silly but Federer’s decision to withdraw from Roland-Garros has ruffled a ton of feathers.
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) June 6, 2021
There are a ton of folks mad at Federer for listening to his body and want him to be removed from Wimbledon when he reaches the fourth round, which is just preposterous and wild. Whatever. People will vent if and when they want. Let them vent and full expose themselves if that’s what they want.
Does Federer’s decision make sense?
Because in a vacuum, this decision makes sense. The Swiss is a 39-year-old man who arrived in Paris having played all of three singles matches in well over a year. He was also coming back from two surgeries. In the third round, he had to fight off Dominik Koepfer for three hours and 35 minutes to capture a tough 7-6(5), 6-7(3), 7-6(3) and 7-5 win. Stuck in a section with Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, Federer wasn’t likely to capture a 21st Grand Slam title next week in Paris and, rather than extend more energy, he pulled out.
Is it shameful that he has apparently decided to treat a Grand Slam tournament like one would a, say, Barcelona Masters 250 event? Is it kind of wild for the perfect gentleman of men’s tennis, the one who’s never declined an opportunity to sidestep a controversy, to treat one of the majors as a building block toward something bigger and better?
Sure, but it’s also not a big deal—or it shouldn’t be. Maybe it’s about time that Grand Slam events get a taste of their own medicine and understand that no, they aren’t any different than any other event. Maybe it’s time for Grand Slam events to understand that if you pull the rug from underneath the players’ feet at any moment and, say, decide to delay the event by a week or to lower the doubles’ prize money, there can be repercussions or karma.
Don’t believe your own hype, Roland-Garros. Federer will be more more than happy to remind you not to.
Day 9 preview
Please see our day 9 preview below. We’ve highlighted three of the matches but as always, you can find the full day’s schedule right here.
Court Suzanne-Lenglen: Barbora Krejcikova vs Sloane Stephens (First match of the day)
Against all odds, Sloane Stephens could be in the middle of a career resurgence. She plays Barbora Krejcikova in the fourth round in what’s quite a winnable match. Next up would be the winner between Ons Jabeur and countrywoman Coco Gauff in the quarterfinals. It’s tricky to start looking ahead, but things could be very, very interesting very, very soon.
Court Philippe-Chatrier: Jannik Sinner  vs Rafael Nadal  (Third match of the day)
Look, let’s not overthink this one. Rafael Nadal, current king of clay, is playing (on Court Philippe-Chatrier finally!) so you should watch. Not only that, but he’s playing Jannik Sinner, the likely next king of clay once the current king of clay retires. There is no real reason why you shouldn’t watch. Tune in. It might not be competitive, but it’ll be a nice window into what makes men’s tennis on clay currently great—and what it’ll look like fairly soon.
Court Suzanne-Lenglen: Maria Sakkara  vs Sofia Kenin  (Third match of the day)
It’s quite refreshing and fun to see Sofia Kenin excel and overcome the disappointment of her Australian Open title defense. Because though the 2020 French Open happened a mere few months ago, Kenin still needs to defend finalist points here; her road so far has been good, if a little rocky. But in the end, as long as you keep winning it doesn’t matter how the win comes about.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG