• AFP-JIJI

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Roger Federer said Sunday he was withdrawing from the French Open despite having reached the fourth round, opting to focus on his primary objective of winning a ninth Wimbledon title. The tournament lost another superstar a few hours later, when Serena Williams’ quest for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title ended with a loss.

“After discussions with my team, I’ve decided I will need to pull out of Roland Garros today,” the 39-year-old Federer said after withdrawing from a tournament for just the fifth time in his career.

It was the first time, however, he had taken such a drastic measure at a Grand Slam.

“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,” he said.

“I am thrilled to have gotten three matches under my belt. There is no greater feeling than being back on court.”

Federer, a 20-time Grand Slam champion who will be 40 in two months, battled over 3½ hours in a match that lasted until 12:45 a.m. to reach the last 16 with a 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (3-7), 7-6 (7-4), 7-5 win over 59th-ranked Dominik Koepfer.

He was due back on court Monday to tackle Matteo Berrettini for a place in the quarterfinals.

The 39-year-old Williams, still one short of Margaret Court’s all-time record for most Grand Slam singles titles, lost 6-3, 7-5 to Kazakh No. 21 seed Elena Rybakina.

The American won the last of her three French Open titles in 2015 and has not gone beyond the fourth round in Paris since losing the 2016 final.

“It was definitely close,”Williams said. “I’m so close. There is literally a point here, a point there, that could change the whole course of the match.

“I’m not winning those points. That like literally could just change everything.”

Her exit leaves just two of the women’s top 10 seeds in the competition — reigning champion Iga Swiatek and last year’s runner-up Sofia Kenin.

Williams, who despite arriving with just one win on clay this season, saw her title hopes boosted by the absence of Simona Halep, and the early exits of Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka.

Instead, she remains without a Grand Slam title since winning the 2017 Australian Open during the early stages of her pregnancy.

“I’m in a much better place than when I got here,” Williams said.

“You know, (I was) just literally trying to win a match, because it had been a really difficult season for me on the clay.”

Williams, who debuted at Roland Garros in 1998, refused to be drawn into whether this was her last French Open.

“I’m definitely not thinking about it at all,” she said. “I’m definitely thinking just about other things but not about that,” she said.

Russian-born Rybakina, 21, extended her best run at a major as she advanced to her first quarterfinal, where she will face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for a spot in the semifinals.

“I am so happy with my match, it was amazing,” said Rybakina, who at 22 is the highest-ranked player left in her half of the draw.

Men’s No. 5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, a favorite to reach his first Grand Slam final with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the other half of the draw, sealed his return to the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 victory over Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta.

A semifinalist at the past two majors, Tsitsipas was beaten in a thrilling five-setter by Djokovic in Paris eight months ago.

His next opponent is two-time Grand Slam finalist and No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev. The Russian, who hadn’t won a French Open match before this week, eased past Chile’s Cristian Garin 6-2, 6-1, 7-5.

Alexander Zverev progressed to the quarterfinals for the third time in four years with a 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 win over Kei Nishikori.

Tamara Zidansek became the first Slovenian woman to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal when she defeated Romania’s Sorana Cirstea 7-6 (7-4), 6-1.

The world No. 85 will meet Paula Badosa after the Spaniard beat 2019 runner-up Marketa Vondrousova 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.

Pavlyuchenkova returned to the Roland Garros quarterfinals for the first time since 2011, defeating former world number one Victoria Azarenka 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.

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