He added: “It’s just not a great look to pull out of a tournament in the middle. It’s one thing if you sprain an ankle badly and finish a match on adrenaline. Those things happen. But it’s another thing when you kind of go into a tournament knowing that you probably aren’t going to be able to really finish the tournament. Roger can’t expect that he’s going to play the French Open and not have some physically demanding matches in the first three or four rounds. That’s kind of inevitable. Look, he’s trying to get himself ready to make a run at Wimbledon, which I believe he’s done. And a lot of people say he’s Roger Federer. He can do whatever he wants. He’s earned this right, and I understand that, but I still don’t like it.”
Federer has been an exceptionally durable champion. Astonishingly, he has never retired during a tour-level singles match (he has played more than 1,500) and had never withdrawn during a Grand Slam singles tournament, although he has withdrawn from four regular tour events, most recently the 2019 Italian Open, also held on clay.
Daniil Medvedev, the No. 2 seed, said he stopped watching Federer’s match at 11:30 p.m. and knew Federer would be in pain the next day. Medvedev said he understood Federer’s decision to save himself for Wimbledon, where he has a far better chance of winning. “Wimbledon is always, even when he will be 50 years old, is a great chance for him,” Medvedev said after his straight-sets win over Cristian Garín of Chile.
Medvedev added that he had little sympathy for Koepfer. “Tennis is brutal,” he said. “If Koepfer wants to be in the next round, sorry, he needed to beat Roger. It doesn’t matter if he retires after. That’s how tennis is. To be in the next round, you need to beat your opponent.”
It was unclear whether Sunday’s decision was linked to concerns about Federer’s postoperative knee or more related to a desire to conserve his resources ahead of Wimbledon, which is set to begin June 28.
“I need to decide if I keep on playing or not or is it not too much risk at this moment to keep on pushing,” he said after defeating Koepfer. “Or is this just a perfect way to just take a rest?”
Since 2015, there have been three weeks between the French Open and the start of Wimbledon, but this year, because of the French Open organizers’ decision to delay the start of Roland Garros, the gap is back down to two weeks.