Roger Federer’s astonishing defeat to a Ukrainian journeyman in the second round at Wimbledon marked the arrival of a new world order in tennis but for the Swiss master this was definitely not the end of an era.
When the new ATP standings are released on July 8,they will show that the holder of a record 17 grand slam titles has slipped to fifth in the world after he failed to defend the 2000 points he amassed by hoisting the Challenge Cup last July.
It will be his lowest ranking since June 2003. While fans and pundits alike were busy speculating if this was the beginning of the end for the greatest man to have ever wielded a tennis racket,Federer pooh-poohed the notion.
“You don’t panic at this point,that’s clear. Just go back to work and come back stronger really,” said Federer after he failed to reach the second week of Wimbledon for the first time since 2002 following his four-set defeat by Sergiy Stakhovsky.
“It’s normal that after all of a sudden losing early after being in the quarters 36 times (in a row),people feel it’s different,” he added.
“(But) I have more options now than I did have one year ago when I was running around trying to chase down every possible tournament and every point to get back to world No. 1.
“Maybe that,and the Olympics last year,took its toll. But overall I think I’ve been playing actually not so bad.”
The problem is that for Federer,who said himself a few years ago that he had ‘created a monster’ by winning so much,a second-round defeat on a court he has ruled for a decade is not only bad,it is off the Richter scale.
After all,this is the man who has won 67 times at Wimbledon,122 matches on grass,257 at the four majors and 905 matches in his career.
Twelve months ago he was the toast of southwest London after winning a record-equalling seventh title and climbing back to the top of the world rankings.
Nowhere is he loved more than at Wimbledon,where he epitomises everything the club represents – grace,elegance and charm.
So much so that a new book ‘Wimbledon – The Official History’ has dedicated 75 of its hefty 552 pages to waxing lyrical about the great man’s records and achievements.
No doubt when the next edition comes out,Federer’s 2013 showing will be glossed over but it will definitely not be the last entry. Of that he is certain.
“I still have plans to play for many more years to come,” the 31-year-old said defiantly.”I’m healthy again,which is a good thing. So I’m looking forward to playing hopefully injury-free for the rest of the season.”
By his own lofty standards 2013 has been underwhelming.
He has won only one title – a low-key grasscourt event in Halle just before Wimbledon – and his grand slam performances have so far added up to a semi-final in Melbourne,a quarter-final appearance at the French and now a second-round humbling.
Checking out of Wimbledon in the first week does not sit easily with Federer and before he walked out of the All England Club gates on Wednesday he was already plotting his 2014 comeback.
“Looking forward to next year,that I can do better next year. Usually I do turnarounds pretty good. I’m looking forward to what’s to come,” he said.
An air of calm,and light rain,descended at Wimbledon on Thursday as Serena Williams avoided the trail of destruction that decimated the field at the All England Club on day three of the grasscourt major.
Serena restores normalcy
A day after men’s champion Roger Federer and Williams’ two closest rivals for the Rosewater Dish,Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova,perished during a ‘Whacky Wednesday Wipeout’,it was left to the American to restore a semblance of normality.
The world number one did just that by bullying her way past Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia 6-3 6-2 and then summed up what a daunting prospect her rivals face every time they tackle her.
“I wouldn’t want to play me at 21 or 31!” the 31-year-old top seed,who is looking to draw level with Federer’s haul of 17 grand slam titles,told reporters.
She was declared the overwhelming favourite for the title before a ball had been struck in anger this week and,after Wednesday’s chaos,it seems no one will be able to topple her.
At 42,Japan’s Kimiko Date-Krumm will have nothing to lose when she takes on the world number one in the third round.
Williams was excited about the prospect of playing the Japanese warrior,who became the oldest female to reach the Wimbledon third round in the professional era with a 6-4 7-5 victory over Romanian Alexandra Cadantu.
“She’s incredibly inspiring. She’s so fit. I watched her when I was super young growing up. I don’t know how she’s able to do so well,” said Williams.
Apart from Azarenka and Sharapova,three other former world number ones – Caroline Wozniacki,Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic – also slipped and skidded out of the tournament on Wednesday with many of them declaring the lush green turf “too dangerous”.
Australian Open champion Azarenka and men’s sixth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga were among a record seven players to withdraw from a grand slam tournament in a single day.
Twenty four hours later French duo Michael Llodra and Paul-Henri Mathieu added their names to Wimbledon’s growing injury list after retiring hurt.
They were the 11th and 12th players to pull out during a turbulent week at the grasscourt major.
Whether it was bad luck or there is any truth in the opinion that the courts are acting up this year,it is clear that the second week of the tournament will have an unfamiliar feel to it after so many of the sport’s big guns made a hasty exit.
Sprawling houses around the All England Club grounds that had been rented out for two weeks were abruptly vacated as Rafa Nadal,Federer,Tsonga and Lleyton Hewitt all headed home just 72 hours into the tournament.
Their demise opened the way for Andy Murray to finally end Britain’s 77-year wait for a men’s champion here as the next highest seed left in the bottom half of the draw is claycourt-loving Spaniard Nicolas Almagro at number 15.
Asian hopefuls avoided the wreckage to join Date-Krumm in the third round with 12th seed Kei Nishikori downing Leonardo Mayer 7-6(5) 6-4 6-2 and Chinese sixth seed Li Na recovering from a second set meltdown to beat Simona Halep 6-2 1-6 6-0.
Juan Martin Del Potro,the only player outside the ‘Big Four’ to win a grand slam in the last eight years,eased past Canada’s Jesse Levine 6-2 7-6(7) 6-3.
Results: men’s Singles: Tomas Berdych (7),Czech Republic,def. Daniel Brands,Germany,7-6 (6),6-4,6-2; Juan Martin del Potro (8),Argentina,def. Jesse Levine,Canada,6-2,7-6 (7),6-2; Richard Gasquet (9),France,def. Go Soeda,Japan,6-0,6-3,6-7 (5),6-3; Kei Nishikori (12),Japan,def. Leonardo Mayer,Argentina,7-6 (5),6-4,6-2; Igor Sijsling,Netherlands,def. Milos Raonic (17),Canada,7-5,6-4,7-6 (4) Andreas Seppi (23),Italy,def. Michael Llodra,France,7-5,0-0,retired; Bernard Tomic,Australia,def. James Blake,United States,6-3,6-4,7-5;
Women’s Singles: Serena Williams (1),United States,def. Caroline Garcia,France,6-3,6-2; Li Na (6),China,def. Simona Halep,Romania,6-2,1-6,6-0; Samantha Stosur (14),Australia,def. Olga Puchkova,Russia,6-2,6-2; Dominika Cibulkova (18),Slovakia,def. Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor,Spain,6-0,6-1; Sabine Lisicki (23),Germany,def. Elena Vesnina,Russia,6-3,6-1; Madison Keys,United States,def. Mona Barthel (30),Germany,6-4,6-2; Klara Zakopalova (32),Czech Republic,def. Annika Beck,Germany,7-6 (5),6-3.
Kimiko Date-Krumm,Japan,def. Alexandra Cadantu,Romania,6-4,7-5;