Jun 1, 2014 9:31 PM by Posted by Greg Smith
PARIS - Roger Federer's streak of nine consecutive quarterfinals at the French Open ended Sunday with a 6-7 (5), 7-6 (3), 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 fourth-round loss to 18th-seeded Ernests Gulbis of Latvia.
Roger Federer's streak of nine consecutive quarterfinals at the French Open ended Sunday with a 6-7 (5), 7-6 (3), 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 fourth-round loss to 18th-seeded Ernests Gulbis of Latvia.
It was 17-time Grand Slam champion Federer's earliest exit at Roland Garros since 2004, when he was beaten in the third round by three-time champion Gustavo Kuerten.
After that, though, Federer made at least the quarterfinals at a record 36 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments, a streak that ended with a second-round loss at Wimbledon last year.
Now the 32-year-old Federer has bowed out before the quarterfinals at three of the last four majors, including a fourth-round loss at the U.S. Open in September.
"I think it was the biggest, probably, win of my career," said Gulbis, who most certainly could have dispensed with the word "probably."
Addressing the spectators during an on-court interview, Gulbis said: "I'm sorry I had to win. I know all of you like Roger."
The fourth-seeded Federer's record haul of major titles includes the 2009 French Open, and he was loudly serenaded and supported by the Court Philippe Chatrier crowd with singsong chants of his first name. But he was hardly at his best Sunday, making a whopping 59 unforced errors and getting broken seven times, including twice while serving for a set.
That included shortly after Gulbis left the court with a trainer to take a medical timeout while trailing 5-2 in the fourth. When Gulbis returned, some fans jeered and whistled at him, and he pointed to his lower back and raised his palms, as if to say, "Hey, I was injured."
His strokes had momentarily gone astray before the break, but afterward, the 25-year-old Gulbis was back to playing the sort of free-flowing, big-hitting tennis that had many marking him as a future start of the game when he was a teenager. He won 10 of the next 12 points, although Federer did end up evening the set at two sets apiece.
The fifth set was all Gulbis, who hadn't been to the quarterfinals at a major tournament since the 2008 French Open.
He needed only 10 minutes to race to a 3-0 lead, thanks in part to Federer miscues. In the second game, for example, Federer netted backhands and forehands to offer up break points, then pushed a run-around, inside-out forehand wide to give Gulbis a lead he'd never relinquish.
After that miss, Federer grabbed a ball and swatted it in anger straight up in the air, a rare sign of exasperation from him.
The result was not as monumental of a shocker as it would have been a few years ago, given that Federer is getting older and he's no longer as impervious as he once was. Still, it fit with the topsy-turvy nature of the 2014 French Open, which saw both reigning Australian Open singles champions, No. 3 Stan Wawrinka and No. 2 Li Na, lose in the first round. No. 1 Serena Williams left in the second round.
Next for Gulbis will be a match against No. 6 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, who eliminated No. 10 John Isner of the United States 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.