PARIS (Reuters) – Roger Federer eased past Norway’s Casper Ruud 6-3 6-1 7-6(10-8) on Friday to become the oldest male player to reach the fourth round at the French Open in almost 50 years.
Playing in his 400th Grand Slam match, the 37-year-old showed little mercy to his 20-year-old Norwegian opponent, whose father Christian reached the third round when Federer first played on the ‘terre battue’ of Roland Garros as a wild card entrant in 1999.
Federer needed little more than an hour to pick up the first two sets, but a rare lapse in concentration allowed Ruud, ranked 63 in the world, to pick up an early break in the third set.
The Swiss reeled the youngster back in, forcing the game to a tie-break where he squandered three match points before winning 10-8.
As he signed autographs at the end, a female fan said: “Roger, I’ve never seen you sweat before, this is crazy.” Federer quipped back: “I know, I don’t know what’s going on, I must be getting old!”
Federer was making his first appearance at Roland Garros since he reached the quarter-finals in 2015. He withdrew from the event in 2016 and missed the entire clay court season in 2017 and 2018 to focus on grass.
Sounding relaxed in a post-match interview, Federer, one of tennis’ most elegant playmakers, praised his opponent’s tenacity – and his grunt-free ball-hitting.
“He doesn’t make any noise. I love that,” he said.
Federer is vying for his second French Open title 10 years after his first in 2009 and to set a record for the longest gap between winning a second title at a Grand Slam in the Open era. He will meet either French wild card Nicolas Mahut or Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer in the fourth round.
(This story corrects headline in paragraph one to show Federer is oldest male player to reach fourth round since 1972, not oldest ever)
(Reporting by Richard Lough; editing by Tony Lawrence)