(CNN) — Roger Federer has withdrawn from the French Open as he seeks to protect his knee following two operations in 2020.
“After discussions with my team, I’ve decided I will need to pull out of Roland Garros today,” the 39-year-old said in a statement on Sunday.
“After two knee surgeries and over a year of rehabilitation it’s important that I listen to my body and make sure I don’t push myself too quickly on my road to recovery.”
After playing into the early hours of Sunday in his third-round win over Dominik Koepfer, the 20-time grand slam champion had hinted at his withdrawal following a lengthy match that ended at 12:45 a.m. local time.
Federer underwent two knee surgeries in 2020 and is targeting a ninth Wimbledon title later this month on his favorite grass court surface.
“I am thrilled to have gotten three matches under my belt,” added Federer. “There is no greater feeling than being back on court.”
French Open tournament director Guy Forget said: “The Roland Garros tournament is sorry about the withdrawal of Roger Federer, who put up an incredible fight last night.
“We were all delighted to see Roger back in Paris, where he played three high-level matches. We wish him all the best for the rest of the season.”
Federer, who will turn 40 on August 8, defeated Koepfer 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (3-7) 7-6 (7-4) 7-5 and had been due to play Matteo Berrettini on Monday for a place in the quarterfinals.
“I don’t know if I am going to play,” said the 20-time grand slam winner after his win over Koepfer which ended at 12:45 a.m. local time.
“I have to decide whether or not to continue. Is it too risky to keep putting pressure on the knee? Is it a good time to rest?
“Every match I have to reassess the situation and see the next morning in what state I wake up and how my knee is doing.
“It may be even more true after a match as long as the one tonight.”
‘You gotta love it’
A night curfew due to COVID-19 restrictions ensured the 15,000-capacity Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros was without fans for Federer’s match.
“I might have been more nervous if the stadium had been full,” added Federer, who made his French Open debut in 1999 and was the 2009 champion in a grand slam tournament that has been dominated by his rival Rafa Nadal.
“All the matches I’ve played since the injury are information for the rest of the season,” added Federer.
“It gives me real pleasure to be able to play three hours and 30 minutes at a high level against a very good player. It shows that I’m on the right track.”
Three-time grand slam winner Andy Murray, who has suffered his fair share of injury problems, said it was inspiring to watch Federer play and was testament to the Swiss star’s love of tennis.
“Just seeing Federer at 39 off the back of 2 knee surgeries playing to an empty stadium at 12.30am getting fired up is inspirational to me. Do what you love,” tweeted Murray.
Federer replied: “Thank you Sir Andy, the feeling is mutual. You gotta love it. See you on the grass.”
™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.