Federer Olympic dream crushed by Blake
15 August 2008
BEIJING – Roger Federer continued his horror season, crashing out at the Beijing Olympics to James Blake 6-4 7-6 (7-2) after a rain-hit quarter-final match on Thursday.
Blake’s victory was a stunner in that he had won only a single set in eight previous matches against Federer.
"If you play him enough times, he’s bound to have an off day," Blake said.
Play began after a rain delay of 3 hours, 35 minutes, with Federer on centre court first, and he seemed off his game from the start. His forehand – once the sport’s most feared – was unreliable, and he repeatedly struggled to hold serve.
Blake earned the first break in the final game of the opening set. On set point, Federer left his feet for a spectacular backhand save that extended the rally, but with his next shot he floated an easy backhand into the net.
His shoulders sagging, he was broken again two games later and fell behind 3-0 in the second set.
Federer finally showed life by breaking back in the fifth game and holding the rest of the way to reach 6-all. But Blake played a flawless tiebreaker, while Federer made two unforced errors and popped up a volley.
When Federer sailed a return long on match point, Blake screamed "Yeah!" Federer ripped off his headband and walked head down to the net.
"In a lot of the other matches, it has been a point here or there," Blake said. "That’s why he was No 1 in the world – he played those points better than everyone. Today I played them well."
The top-seeded Federer has been battling a yearlong slump that has left him stalled at 12 major titles, two shy of Pete Sampras’ record. His Wimbledon reign ended in July, and he came to Beijing knowing he would lose the No 1 ranking to Rafael Nadal next week after 4 1/2 years on top.
Federer’s latest defeat means no rematch in Sunday’s final against Nadal, who won in epic fashion when they met for the Wimbledon title.
Federer had been seeking his first Olympic medal after losing in the singles semi-finals in Sydney and in the second round in Athens. He will now have to swallow disappointment again and aim for the US Open, where he won the trophy a year ago.
Blake finally rose to the occasion after eight consecutive losses to the once-dominant Swiss, including an Australian Open quarter- final at the start of the year.
The schedule of the Olympic event is now seriously threatened by rain after a delayed start and remaining quarter-finals on the men’s and women’s side still to be completed.
Federer will be desperate after his latest setback, with Rafael Nadal due to replace him after four and a half years at number one with Monday’s ATP rankings list.
Federer is under the cosh in Beijing with a packed-out schedule which includes doubles to be completed by Sunday. That would leave just a week until the start of the Open, the final Grand Slam of the season.
Federer left no doubt as to his thoughts on the crowded programme: "It’s ridiculous that we’re playing maybe 11 matches in seven days, to be honest.
""I know it rained the first day, but I don’t understand why we don’t play such a big tournament over 10 days."
The Swiss player goes to New York with his season on the line as he stalls at 12 Grand Slam singles titles.
[dpa / AP / Expatica]
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