If losing Roger Federer before the quarter-finals of a grand slam is no longer a shock, it remains a surprise to see him beaten by those he would consider to be mere mortals. While Andy Murray squeezed into the last 16 by finishing off Philipp Kohlschreiber, the 32-year-old Swiss suffered his earliest loss at the French Open in 10 years yesterday, beaten 6-7, 7-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 by the Latvian Ernests Gulbis.
The manner of the defeat will also linger, with Federer missing a huge chance to go two sets to love up. Leading by a set and 5-3, 40-15 on his own serve, he missed two set points and ended up losing the tiebreak.
Federer is not yet out to grass, but he will be getting some earlier than desired practice on the stuff as Wimbledon approaches.
Yesterday Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat Federer in the last eight here last year, was brutally dismissed 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 by Novak Djokovic, who looks on a mission to end the reign of Rafael Nadal, who plays Dusan Lajovic of Serbia today.
Gulbis took the attack to Federer throughout and showed more resilience than in the past to win through in the final set.
The 25-year-old Gulbis is a man of many words and his mouth often gets him into trouble. Last year, he said he was tired of hearing the same platitudes from the top players during their press conferences and that Federer and the rest of the “big four” were boring.
It was an accusation that Federer half-agreed with, before saying that Gulbis would probably be boring too if he did as many press conferences as him, a not so subtle way of saying, if he were more successful.
Yesterday, Gulbis let his tennis do the talking and earned a win he described as “the biggest of my career”.
Having finally realised he needed to become more professional and cut out the drinking and late nights, he is into the last eight for the first time since his sheer talent got him there as a 19-year-old in 2008 and he now plays the Czech Tomas Berdych.
“It is probably the most important win of my career, especially because it was five sets,” said Gulbis, who still managed to smash a racket during his win.
“I beat him before, but it was a three-set match. So for my confidence and just for me as a tennis player, a five-set win over Roger Federer, it’s really big.”
Having had a second set of twins just a couple of weeks ago, Federer said he was looking forward to a bit of family time before heading on to the grass.
“I think when I’m healthy, like I have been now for the last six to nine months, I can decide the outcome of the matches more than I could last year,” he said. “So I’m very excited about my chances for Wimbledon now this time.”
If Murray gets to the quarter-finals here it will be through a combination of ability and willpower.
The Scot squeezed past Kohlschreiber, 12-10 in the final set, in a match held over from the previous night at 7-7 and today he plays Fernando Verdasco of Spain for a place in the last eight.
After cramping the previous night, Murray came out looking fresher and sharper and, having missed a match point at 9-8 and then saved a break point in the next game, he won it with a thunderous backhand return that left the German stuck in the clay.
“Physically in the fifth set [on Saturday] I was struggling, I was cramping,” Murray said. “But today was a pretty high standard. It was a good finish to the match.”
Djokovic will play Milos Raonic, the big-serving Canadian who beat Spain's Marcel Granollers 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the quarters for the first time. Guardian Service