Federer loses again; could lose top ranking
The No 1 tennis player loses to Ivo Karlovic and is on the verge of being overtaken by Rafael Nadal.1 August 2008
MASON - Top-ranked Roger Federer had another out-of-character defeat on Thursday, a 7-6 (8), 4-6, 7-6 (7) loss to Ivo Karlovic that left the Croat exulting on his back and opened the way for Rafael Nadal to take over the world No. 1 spot by winning the Cincinnati Masters.
Nadal stayed on course for the seismic shift by beating German Tommy Haas 6-4, 7-6 (0) later Thursday, reaching the quarterfinals with his 31st consecutive win. Three more wins and the top spot in the world rankings belongs to him.
Even if he doesn't win the championship in Cincinnati, he can accumulate enough points to overtake Federer in the next few weeks.
"I know I'm in good position," Nadal said. "In truth, I don't think about it too much."
Federer has been ranked No. 1 since 2 February 2004, a record of 235 consecutive weeks. He and Nadal have held the top two spots since 25 July 2005. They will swap if Nadal extends his run of five consecutive tournament titles.
Asked about the possibility, Federer said, "I don't care."
Since his epic five-set loss to Nadal at Wimbledon, Federer has lost in the second round in Toronto and failed to make the quarterfinals in Cincinnati, where he won the title in 2007.
The 26-year-old Swiss star has been struggling to regain his aura of domination since he started the year with mononucleosis.
Nadal has taken advantage by improving his hard-court game and surpassing Federer on the court if not in the rankings.
"Look, he's doing well and I have done well in the past," Federer said. "This year was hard, I guess, with the start of the year. But nevertheless, I still think it's been a good year. I just hope I can show it now at the Olympics and the US Open.
"I'm looking forward for the next two tournaments. Those are really the ones that can make this season from a good one to a great one again."
There was nothing great about his few days in Cincinnati.
Federer needed three sets to get through his first match. Then, he lost for the first time in his career when he didn't drop a game on his serve. He simply couldn't crack Karlovic's tough serve.
Federer had won the six previous times he faced the 6-foot-10 Karlovic, but their matches were close. Federer had won 13 of those 15 sets, although nine ended in tiebreakers.
Appropriately, two of their three sets on Thursday ended in tiebreakers, as well. Using his overpowering serve, Karlovic got the best of them both.
He started the decisive one with a pair of aces - he had 21 overall in the match - and went up 6-3 with a 140 mph serve that Federer couldn't return. After Karlovic let a couple of match points slip away, Federer hit a backhand long, ending the match.
Karlovic fell on his back and raised his arms in triumph over a win that didn't totally surprise him.
"I already played against him six times and it was always close, so I knew that I'm going to have a chance today," Karlovic said.
[AP / Expatica]