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Dominik Koepfer reaches the third round at Roland Garros for the first time, where he will face Roger Federer.

Koepfer: ‘I Don't Just Want To Play Federer, I Want To Give Him A Battle’

German to face Federer for first time at Roland Garros

Just over a year ago, Dominik Koepfer was dreaming of reaching the Top 50 in the FedEx ATP Rankings and going toe-to-toe with the world’s best on tennis’ biggest stages. Now, the 27-year-old German is eyeing a place in the second week of Roland Garros for the first time – and has earned a dream matchup against Roger Federer on Court Philippe-Chatrier in the process.

“That would obviously be amazing,” Koepfer said on Thursday, when Federer was still locked in battle with 2014 US Open winner Marin Cilic. “I've never played with him. I've never practised with him... I'm excited to be in the third round. I'm confident, and [I] hope I can give him trouble, whoever it is, and try to reach the round of 16 again.”

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Eighth seed Federer ultimately prevailed in a tight four-set clash against Cilic, setting a fourth-round meeting against Koepfer, who had to battle past 30th seed Taylor Fritz  6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 to advance. It’s only the second time that Koepfer has been past the second round at a Grand Slam: in 2019, he made a breakthrough run to the US Open fourth round from qualifying. 

Koepfer, who lists clay as his favourite surface, has since gone on to check off more ‘firsts’: in 2020, he qualified and made his ATP Masters 1000 debut in Rome, where he took down World No. 9 Gael Monfils for his first Top 10 win en route to his first tour-level quarter-final (l. Djokovic). At Acapulco this year, he went one step further and reached his first semi-final (l. Zverev).

His Acapulco run propelled him to a new career-high ranking of World No. 50, a big boost for the ‘late bloomer’ who turned pro at 22. Koepfer, who grew up near the slopes in Furtwangen, Germany, played tennis and golf and was an avid skier until committing to tennis at 15 years old. He later attended Tulane University, a Division I school in New Orleans, where he was a two-time All-American and graduated with a degree in finance.

“Obviously it's going to be a big moment, walking out there and playing one of these guys,”  Koepfer said. “But I've been around now for maybe like two years on the ATP Tour, played the bigger tournaments for the second time now, and I'm starting to feel like I belong here. [I’m] starting to believe in myself, and obviously results come if you keep believing and keep pushing.

“I think it's good knowing I've played [Novak] Djokovic before and I played a tight match with him, so that kind of takes the anxiety and the nervousness a little bit.”

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Like many players, the German is familiar with Federer’s game despite going into their first tour-level meeting. Up against the former World No. 1 and 20-time Grand Slam champion, Koepfer is determined to continue making a name for himself as he follows his own path to the top.

“He's so crafty. He's so talented. It's amazing to watch him play,” Koepfer said. “He's different than all the other players, and I hope Roger wins just so I can say I played him. I don't just want to play him; I want to give him a battle and maybe come out with a win somehow.”