Roger Federer has compiled serious streaks while becoming the most successful player in men’s professional tennis. His 16 Grand Slam titles are a record, and he holds the mark for consecutive major semifinals, with 23.
A streak of invincibility ended in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon yesterday. The 29-year-old from Switzerland lost to France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga after winning the first two sets, ending a 178-0 run for Federer after going up 2-0 in Grand Slam matches.
Tsonga won 3-6, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 on Centre Court, ending Federer’s chances of a record-tying seventh Wimbledon singles title.
“He hung in there,” Federer said in a news conference. “I was controlling the match. He just continued serving great. He only needed a couple of breaks to end up bringing it home. He did a really good job doing that very well.”
After dropping his serve in the second game of the match, the 12th-seeded Tsonga never faced another break point in 23 service games, and Federer was out in the Wimbledon quarterfinals for the second year in a row.
“It was more just a serving contest,” said Federer, the oldest man in the quarterfinals. “Good 1-2 punches.”
Tsonga never doubted the outcome.
“I felt so good on the court,” the 26-year-old Frenchman said in a news conference. “Even at two sets down, because I was in the quarterfinals against Roger Federer. The stadium was full. It was 6-3, 7-6. I was not ridiculous. I was in my match.”
In his 13-year career, Federer has only lost twice after winning the first two sets, against Lleyton Hewitt of Australia in the 2003 Davis Cup semifinals and against David Nalbandian of Argentina in the final of the 2005 Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai.
His defeat against Tsonga was “easier to digest” than last year’s quarterfinal loss to eventual runner-up Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, Federer said yesterday.
“Even though this one was in five sets and I was up two sets-to-love, I don’t really feel like I lost from two-sets-to-love up,” Federer said. “Kind of a strange feeling because I did play well myself. I can’t blame my poor returning or my poor serving or my poor movement or anything like that in this match, and that makes it a bit easier.”
Tsonga served 18 aces, one more than Federer. The Frenchman made 22 unforced errors but produced 63 winners. Federer had 57 winners and 11 errors.
“I never panicked,” Tsonga said. “I was not scared on the big points.”
Tsonga is the first Frenchman to reach the semifinals since Richard Gasquet in 2007. He’ll play second-seeded Novak Djokovic tomorrow for a spot in the championship match, against the winner of the other semifinal between top-ranked Rafael Nadal of Spain and Andy Murray of Britain.
Djokovic, a Serb whose only loss this year was against Federer in the French Open semifinals, beat Australian qualifier Bernard Tomic, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5. Nadal beat Mardy Fish of the U.S. 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, and Murray defeated Feliciano Lopez of Spain 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
Federer lost in the final of the French Open this month to Nadal, who won for the second straight year and sixth overall. That was Federer’s first Grand Slam final since he won the 2010 Australian Open for his men’s record-extending 16th Grand Slam singles title. Australia’s Margaret Smith Court won 24 major singles championships.
The third-seeded Federer discarded suggestions his best years are now behind him.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “Look, I played too good. It wasn’t a shocker second-round loss in straight sets, some stupid match I played. It was a great match from both sides. To talk bad about this match would be unfortunate. I really did play well, and I also thought Jo played an amazing match, as good as I’ve seen him play for such a long period of time.”
Federer said he’s taking a lot of positives out of losing at Wimbledon, where he made every final from 2003 through 2009.
“I’m actually pretty pleased with my performance,” he said. “It’s kind of hard going out of the tournament that way, but unfortunately it does happen sometimes. At least it took him, sort of a special performance to beat me, which is somewhat nice.”