Federer suffers more US Open heartbreak

Roger Federer had a dream run at Flushing Meadows from 2004-2008, winning five consecutive titles, but  the past three years have seemed more like a nightmare for the 16-time Grand Slam champion. On Saturday, for the second consecutive year, Federer failed to convert two match points against Novak Djokovic in the fifth set of their semi-final, falling to the World No. 1 after squandering a two-sets lead as 7-6(9), 6-4, 3-6, 2-6, 5-7. And in 2009, Federer came within two points of claiming a sixth consecutive US Open title before eventually falling to Juan Martin del Potro. For a man who has proved himself to be one of the greatest clutch players of all time, the near misses have been hard to stomach.

"It's awkward having to explain this loss because I feel like I should be doing the other press conference," said Federer. "But it's what it is. It's the obvious, really. He came back; he played well. I didn't play so well at the very end. Sure, it's disappointing, but I have only myself to blame. I set it all up perfect, but I couldn't finish it.

“That's why we all watch sports, isn't it? Because we don't know the outcome and everybody has a chance, and until the very moment it can still turn. That's what we love about the sport, but it's also very cruel and tough sometimes. It got me today. It hurts, but it's fine. Could be worse. It could be a final.”

In a strikingly similar situation a year earlier, Federer had held two match points when Djokovic trailed 4-5, 15/40 in the fifth set, and was unable to convert. It was the first time since 2003 he had not reached the US Open final.

Against del Potro in the 2009 final, Federer had seen his 40-match winning streak in New York come to an end in a contest where Federer had led two-sets-to-one and was two points from victory in the fourth set.

In Saturday afternoon’s match, the Swiss suffered only his second defeat from a two-set lead in a Grand Slam match. He had commanded a perfect 178-0 record when winning the first two sets in Grand Slam matches, until he was defeated by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Wimbledon quarter-finals this year. His record now stands at 182-2.

Defeat for Federer also means that 2011 will mark the first year since 2002 that the 16-time major champion has not won at least one Grand Slam championship. He last major title came at the 2010 Australian Open (d. Murray); he was beaten by Rafael Nadal in this year’s Roland Garros title match.

Indeed, the Swiss’ title haul in 2011 has been stuck on one since his victory in Doha (d. Davydenko) at the start of the year. Since then he has finished runner-up in Dubai (l. to Djokovic) and Roland Garros. It is his lowest tally since 2001.

"I definitely had some serious chances to do a bit better [at the slams this year], and I still made semis, finals, quarters, semis,” reflected Federer. “But I think in a few of them I could have gone all the way, if not a step or two further. It's a tough year in terms of some tough losses at some crucial stages of the season.

"Sure you always feel like what an opportunity, what a pity, because you got to wait for a year till the US Open rolls around. But then again, the season is not over yet. I'm looking forward to what's still to come.

“I will be extremely hungry going to Australia next year,” declared Federer. “It's clear and obvious, and I know if I keep on working hard now that I'm feeling so good right now it will all pay off. I know it. I haven't felt like this in a long time, so this is a good time.”

Date: 11.09.2011, Source: ATP


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