WIMBLEDON, England — Roger Federer covered his face with both hands, no doubt wishing he were doing anything at that moment other than dissecting his latest earlier-than-expected Grand Slam exit.
This one came at Wimbledon, no less; the tournament that he loves more than any other, that he ruled for so long.
After all the victories, all the championships, all the records, Federer now must deal with a new streak: The owner of 16 major titles, the man widely considered the best player in tennis history, has lost two Grand Slam quarterfinals in a month, both against opponents who have yet to win a single such trophy.
Federer arrived at the All England Club aiming to reach the final for the eighth year in a row and win a record-tying seventh title. Instead, he leaves before the semifinals, beaten 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 Wednesday by No. 12 Tomas Berdych.
On June 1, Federer lost in the French Open quarterfinals as the defending champion there, too, putting an end to his unprecedented 23 consecutive appearances in major semifinals.
"God, I can't wait for Paris and Wimbledon to come around next year again, that's for sure, because they've been frustrating tournaments for me, even though it wasn't too bad. Quarters is a decent result," Federer said. "Obviously, people think quarters is shocking, but people would die to play in quarterfinal stages of Grand Slam play. "It's not something I'm used to doing — losing in quarterfinals — because it's not something I've done in the last six years."
Indeed, he participated in 18 of 19 major finals from 2005-10. Until Wednesday, Federer was 51-1 at Wimbledon since the start of the 2003 edition.
Federer placed at least some of the blame for this loss on two previously undisclosed health issues: a bothersome back and right thigh.
"I couldn't play the way I wanted to play," said Federer, whose defeat guarantees he will drop to No. 3 in the rankings for the first time since November 2003, according to the ATP. "You just don't feel as comfortable. You can't concentrate on each and every point, because you do feel the pain sometimes."
He said his leg and back have bothered him since the grass-court tournament in Halle, Germany, where Federer lost to Lleyton Hewitt in the final a week before Wimbledon started. Before that match, Federer had won 76 of his past 77 matches on grass. Now he has lost two of six.
"If I'm healthy I can handle these guys. I've played these guys 10 times and they're not going to reinvent themselves in a year, you know," he said when asked if he had trouble with Berdych's style. "But I'm definitely struggling at the moment."
Asked whether he would tune in to Sunday's final, Federer said no, he'll be on vacation.
Against Berdych, Federer gave little indication he was troubled. Berdych noticed nothing wrong.
"I mean, I don't know if he just (is) looking for some excuses after the match or something like that," said Berdych, who beat Federer at Key Biscayne in March after losing to him eight times in a row.
Since winning his only 2010 title at the Australian Open in January, Federer, 28, has been to the semifinals at three of eight tournaments.
He dismissed a query about whether he can return to dominance, saying: "Yeah, I do think that. That's why I'm here."
Similar chatter arose when Federer went through three Grand Slam tournaments in 2008 without a title, losing to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open semifinals and Rafael Nadal in the French Open and Wimbledon finals. But Federer won the U.S. Open that year then won his first French Open title in 2009 to complete a career Grand Slam and tie Pete Sampras' mark of 14 major titles. A month later, Federer regained his Wimbledon championship.
Berdych never had been past the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam until Paris. To reach his first major final, he'll need to eliminate No. 3 Djokovic on Friday.
Djokovic advanced to his second Wimbledon semifinal with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory over No. 82 Yen-hsun Lu.
Also Friday, Nadal — ranked No. 1, seeded No. 2 — will meet No. 4 Andy Murray, who is trying to become the first British man to win Wimbledon since 1936. Britain hasn't even put a man in the final since 1938.
"A huge, huge wait for us," Murray said after getting past No. 10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-7 (7-5), 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, 6-2 to reach the semifinals for the second straight year.