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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, June 29, 2021


Roger Federer was facing a fifth set vs. Adrian Mannarino the Frenchman was forced to retire with a right knee injury in their Wimbledon opener.

Photo credit: Getty

Adrian Mannarino's injury from a jarring fall aided Roger Federer's rise to the Wimbledon second round.

Facing trouble beneath the closed Centre Court roof, Federer forced a fifth set. Then Mannarino was forced to retire after injuring his right knee crashing to the court in the seventh game of the fourth set.

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Mannarino played two more games after suffering the injury, but his movement limited, he couldn't push off his leg on serve and he pulled the plug in pain sending Federer into the second round, 6-4, 6-7(3), 3-6, 6-2, retired.

Survival skills and Mannarino's misfortune helped Federer step into a record-extending 18th Wimbledon second round, an experience he summed up simply: "I definitely got lucky."

The sixth-seeded Swiss, who has come back from two right knee surgeries, empathized with Mannarino's plight.

"Not like this please, you know," Federer said in his on-court interview. "That's how it goes sometimes. You don't get many walkovers in a career, you also try not to have it happen to yourself.

"It's a reminder how quickly it goes. Of course, I'm obviously happy I can get another chance for another match here. I worked very hard. At the end, I enjoyed myself out here today. It was great fun until the end, obviously."

Winless in six prior meetings vs. the former world No. 1, Mannarino outplayed Federer from the baseline building a two-sets to one lead beneath a closed Centre Court roof and captivated crowd when one slip obliterated it all. 

In the seventh game of the fourth set, Federer hit a drive behind the Frenchman, who was shuffling behind the baseline when his left foot slipped on the grass and he crumbled to the court twisting his right knee awkardly in the process.

The fact Mannarino stayed prone on the court and did not attempt to rise after several seconds suggested this could be a match-ending injury as both the chair umpire and Federer came over to check on the fallen Frenchman.

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Talk about birthday buzz kill.

Today is Mannarino's 33rd birthday and he celebrated like a man who believed he could breakthrough and beat the eight-time Wimbledon champion on the court where he's elevated to dizzing levels.

The 39-year-old Federer found his groove in the fourth set, but conceded Mannarino outplayed him. The third Wimbledon meeting between the fall highlighted the fact onne fall can alter everything.

"It's awful," Federer said in his on-court interview. "It shows one shot can change the outcome of a match, a season, a career.

"I wish him all the best and I hope he recovers quickly so we see him back on the courts. Because look he could have won the match at the end. Obviously, he was the better player. So I definitely got lucky. But who cares about that. I wish him all the best."

Though Federer moves forward this match raises more questions than it does provide answers over his quest to reach a record-extending 13th Wimbledon final.

Mannarino flipped the script from the traditional lefty playbook that players ranging from Rafael Nadal to Marcelo Rios have applied against Federer curling their lefty forehand into his one-hander.

Instead, Mannarino used his flat strokes boldly attacking Federer's forehand and the Swiss' signature shot scrawled errors as he fell into a two sets to one deficit.

Losing the baseline battle, Federer adjusted by dipping drop shots and short slices to lure Mannarino forward and set up his own forays to net. Federer won 29 of 35 trips to net, served with more command and played his most dynamic tennis of the match in his fourth-set rally before Mannarino's fall.  

From the early stages of the second set, Mannarino was often exerting the edge in baseline rallies.

The eight-time champion needed to reign in that wayward forehand, but Federer couldn't corral that wild wing at the start of the third set. In a horrific four error game that featured a flurry of three forehand errors, Federer gifted the break and a 2-0 lead to the Frenchman.

Mannarino had not dropped serve since the first game of the opening set when he poked a nervy forehand into net to face a second break point. Trying to run around his backhand, Federer jammed himself on a forehand and nudged into net. Federer lashed a backhand pass down the line that left a lunging Mannarino lose the grip on his Babolat racquet sending it sprawling and put the Swiss back on serve, 1-2.

Streaking through a love hold to level, Federer had momentum, but Mannarino made sure it didn't last long.

The left-hander hammered some deep returns breaking at love sparking a 10-point run that saw him streak out to a 5-2 lead.

Coach Ivan Ljubicic leaned forward in his court-side seat in concern. Federer conjured a phenomenal flick lob winner and smacked an ace holding to force the Frenchman to serve out the set.

Uncoiling on a slider down the T, Mannarino earned set point. Mannarino masterfully opened the court with the slice serve dragging the Swiss wide before pushing a clean forehand volley into the open court. The man who had taken just one set in 15 career sets vs. Federer was outplaying the champion and now stood one set from major upset.

It took a tremendous 19-shot exchange ending with a fine Federer drop volley for the Swiss to earn a hard-fought hold to open the fourth set. Federer needed an early break to put some pressure on Mannarino and he caught a break when his forehand crashed into the tape and crawled over for double-break point.

Finesse forged the break. Federer carved a backhand drop shot, followed it forward and blocked a volley for 2-0.

As Federer began to finally plug in on forehand, electric points ensued. Federer flowed through eight of nine points on serve pumping his 13th ace for a 4-1 fourth-set lead.

Shuffling behind the baseline in the seventh game, Mannarino slipped on his left foot and crumbled to the court twisting his right knee and clutching at the knee in clear pain. The Frenchman stayed down on the grass for a bit before slowly rising and walking to his court-side seat.

Following an injury time-out where Mannarino took some tablets from the trainer, play resumed. Mannarino could not move to return Federer's serve.

Struggling to put any weight on his left when he stepped up to serve, Mannarino was arming serves trying to limit the use of his lower body. Sailing a backhand to end the set after two hours, 42 minutes, Mannarino returned to his court-side seat perhaps hoping pain killers could kick in to numb his knee but shook hands to end it.

On a day in which fellow iconic champion Serena Williams fell out of the tournament the fact Federer withstood the turbulence and landed on his feet was a win in itself.


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