Federer on his loss: ‘I’m not sure what happened’
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Art Spander in Kevin Anderson, Roger Federer, Wimbledon, articles, tennis

By Art Spander

WIMBLEDON, England — He sounded as bewildered as the rest of us. Sure, it’s happened before, a favorite squandering a lead, breaking bad — and that’s the key phrase here — when it’s all going so good, Arnold Palmer throwing away a seven-shot lead in a U.S. Open, the Falcons falling apart after going in front by 25 points in Super Bowl LI.

But not Roger Federer. Not the acknowledged greatest tennis player ever. Not at Wimbledon, where he had won the men’s singles seven times. Not against Kevin Anderson, whom he’d beaten the four times they’d ever met.

There was Roger on Wednesday, coasting, breezing, playing with the grace and skill we — and he — would expect, even a month before his 37th birthday.

Two sets ahead, a lead in the third, one point from his fifth straight semifinals, from his 12th in 15 Wimbledons overall. And then?

“After that,” he would confess, “I’m not sure what happened.”

On the scoreboard, what happened was Anderson, the big guy (6-foot-8) from South Africa (he lives in Florida and has applied for U.S. citizenship), stunned Federer, 2-6, 6-7, 7-5, 6-4, 13-11.

A mini-marathon, 4 hours, 14 minutes. A maxi-surprise.

“I’m up two sets to one,” said a chastened Federer. “It’s all good, so... At that point, I wasn’t thinking of losing.”

But he lost. He lost for only the second time in a Wimbledon match after winning the first two sets (Jo-Wilfred Tsonga beat him 3-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4). He lost after having his serve broken for the first time at Wimbledon since last year’s semi against Tomas Berdych, 85 games.

“I was very happy that I got off to the right start,” said Federer, “as I was able to take control of the game.”

It’s the end that counts in sports. It’s how you finish. And Anderson, who had 28 service aces — 11 in the fifth set, which lasted for an hour and a half — was able to finish off Federer.

“I think I had my chances,” said Federer, “so it’s disappointing. No doubt about it. I just don’t know exactly how I couldn’t create more opportunities once the third set came around. He was consistent. He was solid. Credit to him for hanging around that long.”

Anderson, who through the second set had dropped all 10 sets he’d ever played against the Swiss master starting in 2013, will take that credit and take his spot in the semis against an American, John Isner, who beat the Canadian Milos Raonic.

“It felt great to get that match.” said Anderson. ”I mean, the toughest thing players face when playing somebody like Roger in this setting is giving yourself a chance.”

Even if nobody else gave him a chance.

“Again,” said Anderson, who spent a year at the University of Illinois, “I really hope it’s an example of sticking to your dreams.”

More importantly, sticking to your plan. A day earlier, he told a writer from Metro, the free London paper, “I feel like a lot of aspects of my game can give him a lot of trouble. I’m a big player, big serve. I’m going to have to really take it to him.”

In truth, Anderson took it from Federer, took away the opportunity to add a 20th Grand Slam title to his record.

“That has nothing to do with my opponent,” Federer would contend, when of course it did have a great deal to do with his opponent. Anderson didn’t melt under the Federer spell — “Roger, Roger” was the scream at Centre Court. Anderson was resolute.

“It was just one of those days where you hope to get by,” said Federer. “Somehow, I almost could have.”

Almost, that’s the word so often used by the people who play Federer. They had him. Then they didn’t have him. Then he hit the great passing shot, the great serve.

“I didn’t feel mental fatigue,” said Federer. “Now I feel horribly fatigued. It’s just awful. But that’s how it goes.”

It’s legitimate to wonder where Federer will go. He said he’ll return to Wimbledon, but it won’t be as defending champion, as the virtually unbeatable star.

“Today,” said Federer, “I had moments where I was great. I felt like I was reading his serve, other moments where I don’t know where the hell I was moving.”

He knows now. He was moving out of Wimbledon.

Article originally appeared on Art Spander (http://artspander.com/).
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