“I’m happy I’m putting myself in a position like this in a fourth round of the French Open after not having played so many years here,” said Federer, who last played this tournament in 2015. “I think for me the first goal has been reached by getting this deep into the tournament, and knowing where the game’s at, knowing where the fitness is, the mind.”
Plenty of clay dust has swirled and settled in the 20 years since his first main-draw appearance, and Federer has been in a nostalgic mood during his return to Roland Garros. Or perhaps he has been coaxed into a nostalgic mood by nostalgic inquisitors.
“Yes, it’s true — that’s what’s happening this week,” he said.
But Federer added that it had been pleasant to sift through the memories.
“Because I feel that my 20 years on the tour went too fast, almost,” he said. “When you play against people like Casper Ruud, you ask, ‘How was it at that time?’ When I started on the tour, he was hardly born.”
Federer continued talking about nostalgia, but his gaze was drifting away from his audience toward the television monitor in the corner of the interview room that displays up-to-date scores.
“I’m looking at the score of my future opponent, so we’re still in the present here,” Federer said.
As it turned out, he will face Leonard Mayer, an unseeded 32-year-old Argentine veteran whom Federer has beaten in all three of their previous matches. Mayer won in four tight sets against the 37-year-old Nicolas Mahut of France, ending his emotional run here.
Now Mayer will get a crack at ending Federer’s. It is hard to assess Federer’s true level, for us and even for him. He has not been pushed to five sets; he has not faced any established threats or even one of the tour’s most highly regarded youngsters.