A choke of epic proportions here as Federer dumped himself out the French Open with a 6-7(5), 7-6(3), 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 loss at the hands of future world number one and all time great Ernests Gulbis.
Not a hugely disappointing loss but the manner of the defeat sucks. From being a set and 5-3 40-15 up Roger completely lost his way. At 5-2 in the fourth set Gulbis then took a suspicious looking medical timeout and came out fresh as a daisy with all guns blazing. Roger managed to serve out the set the second time of asking for 6-4 but played an exceptionally poor fifth set that allowed Gulbis to run away with it.
Like I said it's not exactly a killer loss; I figure Fed would have been crushed by Berdych next round anyway and there's no chance he was going to win the French but it has to go down in the list of Federer chokejob specials based on how he let the match slip from his grasp.
It will certainly be interesting to see how Fed reacts in his presser too, it looks like he's completely given up on clay since 2011 with some of his performances in the last 3 years. And when you see quotes like the one below from Edberg it's hard to believe that Fed really thinks he has a chance himself:
The French Open may not be the highest priority, but with a bit of luck in the draw he has the chance to win Wimbledon or the U.S. Open.
So a surprising loss on paper, a very flat performance overall and not many positives to take into the grass court season which starts in Halle the week after next.
Quick Match Recap
The first set saw the Latvian start confidently firing down some huge first serves and justifying his 2nd spot on the Aces leaderboard on this years tour. At 2-3 Roger dropped served for the first time only to break back immediately after a terrible service game from Gulbis. No more break points came the way of either player and the set resulted in a tie break which Roger took 7-5 hitting a wicked cross court whipped forehand pass to take his first set point.
Into the second and Roger again recovered from an early break but started to look much more comfortable from the back of the court. At 4-3 Roger then got the breakthrough and soon found himself up 40-15 when serving for the set. Here things began to unravel as Roger managed to hit a routine overhead into Gulbis's path which he guided up the line for a clean winner before breaking back.
What looked a nigh on certain 2 sets to love lead was now a tie break which Gulbis ran away with, winning 4 straight points from 3 all to level the match at one set all.
The third set saw a complete meltdown from Fed has he lost serve twice en route to dropping the set 6-2. It looked like the overhead on set point was still playing on his mind and Gulbis just had to play solidly to put himself in the driving seat.
The fourth needed an immediate response from Federer and we got it as he broke twice to lead 5-2 with some solid point construction. Gulbis then took a medical timeout and was off court for at least 5 minutes receiving treatment for an unknown injury. Pure gamesmanship in my opinion and considering he came out blasting winners to break back it looked even more suspect. Fortunately Federer managed to regroup his thoughts to hold and take the set 6-4.
Fifth set shootouts have historically ended badly for Federer, at least in recent times anyway, and true to form he faded meekly dropping serve in his first service game with some sloppy play and then failed to create a signal chance to break back as Gulbis served it out to 15 to take it 6-3 in the fifth. Another fifth set let down that ends with a whimper.
|Stats||Ernests Gulbis||Roger Federer|
|1st Serves In||93/154 (60 %)||102/161 (63 %)|
|1st Serve Points Won||65/93 (70 %)||70/102 (69 %)|
|2nd Serve Points Won||37/61 (61 %)||30/59 (51 %)|
|Fastest Serve||222 KMH||206 KMH|
|Average 1st Serve Speed||205 KMH||186 KMH|
|Average 2nd Serve Speed||159 KMH||152 KMH|
|Net Points Won||19/34 (56 %)||31/50 (62 %)|
|Break Points Won||7/12 (58 %)||5/7 (71 %)|
|Receiving Points Won||61/161 (38 %)||52/154 (34 %)|
|Total Points Won||163||152|
Thoughts on the Match
Bunch of missed overheads, no real gameplan, shit fifth set and a nice dose of gamesmanship from Gulbis means this isn't a match that will live long in the memory for me personally.
I don't want to be too harsh on Fed as Gulbis is bang in form, this is clay and the new set of twins no doubt cost him some sleep but it was still a match on his racquet that went begging. Lots of things he could and should have done differently really and I doubt Edberg had fun watching it. Probably why he left the stadium after the third set 😀
The huge problem with clay for Fed is that it's extremely difficult to hit winners and there are no cheap points. If you want to win on this surface you have to grind it out and play extremely patiently. I don't think Fed really has the desire to do that at this stage in his career and it's not really his game anyway.
Going high risk isn't going to pay off for him either as he'll make errors and fatigue quickly so he's caught between a rock and a hard place with clay, to win his game needs to be very balanced just like the 2011 semi final against Djokovic. When it's imbalanced like today then he really is walking on a tightrope, just look how quickly this one changed after that missed overhead. One second it looked like the showers were already running in the locker room the next he' down 2 sets to 1 to a guy with a joke of a forehand.
When all is said and done it's not a heartbreaking loss or a big deal as there's no way he would beaten Djokovic or Nadal here anyway, believing otherwise is just wishful thinking. I'm not sure he even would even beat Berdych on this surface who dispatched Isner in straight sets today in impressive fashion.
So had Fed won as fans we'd have got another match to watch and Fed would have defended his Quarter Final points but I think the outcome of the QF would have been the same as today's match. That's not the sort of mindset Fed should be taking heading into matches of course but just how it is 🙂
Positives are it's highly unlikely to cost Fed the Wimbledon 4th seed spot as Berdych will need to win the French Open for that to happen and now Fed has longer to prepare on grass. It's going to be interesting to see if this loss has knocked his confidence heading into Halle and it might be a tough ask to defend his title. At least on grass the serve + forehand can dominate so we'll just have to wait and see what happens.
PS. Berdych will be taking out Gulbis in straight sets and expect Verdasco to edge Murray in 4 sets tomorrow too 😉