An hour after his run of nine straight French Open quarterfinals was ended by Ernests Gulbis, Roger Federer had already switched his attention to Wimbledon.
Gulbis, the No. 18 seed from Latvia, yesterday beat the Swiss, 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-3), 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 on the main Court Philippe Chatrier.
“Mentally I have already switched to the grass, to be quite honest,” Federer, a seven-time Wimbledon champion, said in a news conference. “For me, it’s like, OK, clay court season was fun, but we are moving on. Clay doesn’t need me anymore, I got flushed out here.”
Only one of Federer’s men’s record 17 Grand Slam singles titles have come on the slow clay courts of Roland Garros, in 2009.
Yesterday against Gulbis, Federer failed to take his chances.
Serving for a two sets to love lead at 5-3 in the second, he missed two set points, one with a smash that he aimed straight back at Gulbis, who ended up winning the point with a passing shot. Federer was also uncharacteristically erratic, making 59 unforced errors while he was broken seven times. Gulbis made 53 errors.
“I made a mistake, a small mistake,” Federer said. “A lot of regrets here now. But Gulbis did a good job of hanging around, and clearly coming back in that second set was crucial for him. It was a tough match and I’m disappointed I lost it.”
Today, defending champion Rafael Nadal of Spain plays Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic, while David Ferrer faces South Africa’s Kevin Anderson.
“I was lucky,” Gulbis told reporters after he made his second French Open quarterfinal. “In the second set he had a smash and I guessed the place. I stayed in one place. He smashed right onto me.”
Gulbis, 25, also made the quarterfinals at Roland Garros in 2008, his best Grand Slam result to date. He had entered this year’s tournament on a career-high ranking of No. 17 after winning two tournaments. Before yesterday, he’d lost four of his last five-set matches.
“For my confidence and just for me as a tennis player, a five-set win over Roger Federer, it’s really big,” said Gulbis, who told reporters last week he hadn’t always trained hard enough in his career.
Federer didn’t have his usual preparation ahead of Paris. Instead of playing in the Madrid Masters last month, he rushed home to be with his wife Mirka as she gave birth to twin boys, Leo and Lenny. Federer and his wife had twin girls in 2009. He’d gone to Rome a week after the birth, and promptly lost his opening round to France’s Jeremy Chardy.
“I’m looking forward to spending some time with the family now,” Federer said. “It’s been an intense last few weeks.”
Federer’s last major win was at 2012 Wimbledon, when he reduced Britain’s Andy Murray to tears in the final.
After a difficult season last year, when he dropped to as low as No. 7 following a second-round exit at Wimbledon to unseeded Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine and a fourth-round loss at the U.S. Open to Spanish veteran Tommy Robredo, Federer made some changes this year. He hired former Wimbledon champion Stefan Edberg as his coach, and also switched rackets to a heavier model with more power.
He returned to the top four of the ATP World Tour earlier in the year after reaching the semifinals at the Australian Open and winning the title in Dubai.
Unlike last year, Federer said he’s now “physically fit,” and ready for the grass.
“Things are going to change with the grass season,” he said. “It’s going to be different.”