Monday, February 19, 2018
Sports

Federer's form continues to fall

PARIS — Everything appeared to be under control for Roger Federer, just like in the old days at Grand Slam tournaments.

Then, suddenly, it wasn't.

One point from a two-set lead Sunday in the French Open's fourth round against 18th-seeded Ernests Gulbis, Federer settled under a floating ball and prepared for a simple putaway. Except it wasn't. Federer sent a meek overhead toward Gulbis, who ripped a backhand winner.

That was part of a four-point run that let Gulbis break serve and get back into the match, which he won 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-3), 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 to end Federer's streak of nine consecutive quarterfinals at Roland Garros.

"A lot of regrets," Federer said. "I just couldn't kind of figure it out."

It also served as a reminder that Federer, 32 and a father of four, is no longer the nearly infallible force who made it to the closing days of major after major.

"He's Roger Federer," Gulbis said, "but he also gets tight."

Federer, a 17-time Grand Slam champion, had not left Roland Garros so soon since 2004, when he was beaten in the third round by Gustavo Kuerten.

After that, Federer made the quarters at a record 36 straight majors, a streak that ended last year with a second-round loss at Wimbledon. Federer also put together record Slam runs of 10 finals and 23 semifinals in a row.

Now he has bowed out before the quarterfinals at three of the past four majors.

"I think it was the biggest, probably, win of my career," said Gulbis, who could have dispensed with the word "probably."

Addressing fans who sang Federer's first name between points as a sign of support, Gulbis said: "I'm sorry I had to win. I know all of you like Roger."

The result fit with the topsy-turvy nature of this tournament: Both reigning Australian Open champions, No. 3 Stan Wawrinka and No. 2 Li Na, lost in the first round and No. 1 Serena Williams left in the second round.

Gulbis next plays No. 6 Tomas Berdych, who eliminated the last American man, No. 10 John Isner, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. In another quarter, No. 2 Novak Djokovic, in his 20th straight Slam quarterfinal, faces No. 8 Milos Raonic. Wimbledon champ Andy Murray and No. 24 Fernando Verdasco finished off third-round victories in matches suspended Saturday.

In the women's quarterfinals, 2012 champion Maria Sharapova — who won the last nine games to oust Samantha Stosur 3-6, 6-4, 6-0 — faces 35th-ranked Garbine Muguruza, the 20-year-old who stunned Williams last week.

"Of course now I'm very happy what I did," Muguruza said after getting to the final eight at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time by eliminating French wild card Pauline Parmentier. "But I want to continue."

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