I’ve been talking for a while now about how Roger Federer’s losses at the smaller ATP tournament would eventually catch up to him at the Slams. Well, they’ve now officially caught up to him.
This afternoon, Federer, the six-time defending Wimbledon champion, suffered an untimely loss to Tomas Berdych 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 in the Wimbledon quarterfinals.
In reality, the match wasn’t even that close as Berdych was hardly pressed in contest. Sure, there were tense moments near the end – Berdych acknowledged as much – but Federer was just another player against Berdych who probably put forth the cleanest match he’s played all tournament.
“Not surprised,” Berdych said of his performance today. “I mean, there was my key to go to the match like the way I did, and I’m very happy that with my performance today. I was playing really well. I mean, only I just took some weak moments in the second set when I lost quite badly my serve and then just give him chance to win the set. But then I think it was all good, and it was pretty nice match for me.”
The loss of course means Federer will not be in the Wimbledon finals for the first time since 2002, a relief for some anti-Fed fans. And it’s Roger’s second straight quarterfinal loss after having won 23 straight through the 2010 Australian Open.
“I don’t think I played poorly,” Federer said. “I think he went after it. I mean, I know Berdych. I think I’ve played him 10 times already before. That’s the way he plays, you know. I think he’s been able to play more consistent last year or so, and I was just not able to defend well enough and I didn’t come up with the good stuff when I had to. So it was disappointing, you know.”
Federer, however, was quick to disclose an injury issue with his leg.
“I couldn’t play the way I wanted to play,” he said. “You know, I am struggling with a little bit of a back and a leg issue. That just doesn’t quite allow me to play the way I would like to play. So it’s frustrating, to say the least. Looking forward to some rest anyway.”
Whoa. So was the leg also bothering him during Fed’s straight set wins over Arnaud Clement and Jurgen Melzer? I’m guessing no. And i’m guessing it wasn’t much of a factor in the loss today.
Berdych was the won doing the damage with his forehand and his serve. And he kept his nerve when he needed to. Credit to Tomas who’s now beaten Roger in two straight meetings.
Rafael Nadal has also been under an injury cloud, but today the 2008 Wimbledon champ scored a very impressive 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-1 victory over Robin Soderling. Most pundits, myself included, had Soderling getting through this test, and early on it looked like the right pick if not an outright mismatch.
Soderling raced out to 5-0 lead but Nadal began to claw his way back winning six of the next seven games to lead 3-0 in the second and seize the momentum.
Robin had chances late in the third but the day really belonged to Nadal who despite knee troubles, arm problems, coaching issues and a tough draw, has survived into yet another Wimbledon semifinal.
“I think in the beginning he start playing great,” said Rafa. “I had 40-15 in the first game with my serve. I lost that serve. Was a hard start for me, because playing against a big server like Robin is very difficult to come back in the set. And I think he started playing very well, very long, with no mistakes, lot of winners, serving great. I didn’t have a lot of chances in the beginning. But after the first game of the second set, everything change.”
Everything really changed at 5-1 down in the first when Nadal broke Soderling. That seems to get the ball rolling for the Spaniard.
“I think the difference was that he returned a little bit better than me,” Soderling said. “I was a little bit frustrated today because I didn’t put many returns in. Of course, he served pretty well. But it’s not like I’m playing one of the best servers on tour. I have to at least put some more returns back in play. During the second and third sets, I had my chances. I didn’t really take them. So I think that was the biggest difference.”
Nadal now gets Andy Murray in the semifinals, while Berdych will meet Novak Djokovic.
As expected Djokovic ambushed an overmatched Yen Hsun Lu 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. Lu who had cleared Djokovic’s path when he shocked Andy Roddick on Monday, had no answer for Novak. The win puts the Serb into his second Wimbledon semifinal, and matches him against Berdych, a player he’s twice beaten.
“I sincerely hope to continue this level,” said Djokovic. “I have nothing to lose in the semi-finals. I’m hoping to go one step further than three years ago.
“He has got some great results in last couple of months. So he’s one of the toughest players to play against I guess lately. I’m gonna have to be patient and wait for the chances. Obviously, both of us, we gonna have a great motivation to proceed to the next round and finals. I would give everything to play finals in Wimbledon.”
Meanwhile, Murray survived the early upset bid from JW Tsonga to advance 6-7(5),7-6(5), 6-2, 6-2. The turning point came at 5-5 in the second set breaker when Tsonga, perched at the net, let sail a ball he thought was going out. The ball landed in and Murray served out the set (and effectively the match) on the very next point.
The results of the day also push Federer to No. 3 in the world making it paramount the Swiss win the US Open to have any chance of catching Nadal in the ranking by the end of the year.
And again this leaves the Friday semifinals looking like Berdych v. Djokovic and Murray v. Nadal. It’s an all European, and six foot plus semifinal, just without the Swiss flavoring. For some reason I get the feeling Nadal will be eating another trophy come Sunday.
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