Any other year Roger Federer would have walked in quietly and walked out without breaking a sweat. He has been invincible for the last four years. In this period, vulnerability rarely visited upon him.
Year 2008 has been different. He lost in all three Grand Slams played so far. He lost in the hard court events. On Thursday in the Olympic quarterfinal, an error-prone Federer lost to James Blake of the US 6-4, 7-6 (2).
Everyone had come to cheer for Federer. A point by the maestro sent the crowd into delirium. Till Thursday, Blake had never defeated the Swiss. In nine previous matches, he only won a set. But with 56 unforced errors, Federer was suddenly vulnerable to the man ranked No 7 in the world.
Games went on serve till Blake broke Federer at 4-5 to take the first set with a crisp passing shot. Struggling with his first serves, Federer kept prodding to find a chink in Blake’s armour, but he found none. Despite coming back from an early break and hauling up a 0-3 lead, Federer crumbled in the tiebreak – missing out on regulation passes and struggling to put away volleys he would have yawned while doing in the past.
Blake termed the victory as the best of his career. “Beating Federer is always special,” said the 28-year-old American. “But there’s a lot of work to do. It’s not the final. If it were the final it would have been perfect.”
“Even now I don’t think he is vulnerable. He is one of the contenders at the US Open,” said Blake. “He is one of the greatest tennis players, but he is human. He just had an off day.
“Today I played big points better, especially on my serve. I made a lot of first serves at big moments. That tiebreaker I only missed one point,” he said munching on an energy bar and sipping water.
For Blake, staying in the Games Village evokes a different kind of passion.
“There’s tons of difference between a tour and the Olympics. When you are getting on a bus going back to the Olympic Village with single beds, sharing rooms, eating in a dining hall with other athletes – it’s just amazing how it feels,” he said, wide-eyed. “To be in the same team as Michael Phelps or Tyson Gay or the basketball team, you feel inspired by their presence.”
Williams sisters crash out
The Williams sisters both crashed out of the singles tournament in quarterfinal stage on Thursday. Venus lost to unseeded local hope Li Na and Serena succumbed to Elena Dementieva.
Venus Williams went down 7-5, 7-5 to Li, ranked 42, while Serena was shown the door by Russian number five seed Elena Dementieva 6-3, 4-6, 3-6.