Shocker: Federer Doesn’t Win Australian Open

23:51 Fri 25 Jan 2008. Updated: 03:40 02 Feb 2008
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In fact, he didn’t even make it to the final, breaking his streak of ten straight Grand Slam finals. Sunday’s champion will be the first man not named Nadal or Federer to win a Grand Slam since the 2005 Australian Open.

He lost in the semifinal to Novak Djokovic, currently ranked number three in the world. Adding to the shock, Djokovic beat him in straight sets, and Djokovic also came back from 3-5 down to break Federer twice en route to winning four games in a row, and the set.

I didn’t watch the match, but apparently Djokovic was putting tremendous pace on the ball, and Federer was having trouble with that. In addition, Federer didn’t seem to be on the top of his game, and a number of commentators were saying that he was vulnerable. Personally, I think he’s been showing some signs of mental weakness for over a year—he failed to convert sixteen(!) break points against Nadal at the French Open final, he was shaky in the Wimbledon final and came through the fifth set because of Nadal’s own inability to capitalize, and in the US Open final he definitely lacked the killer edge against Djokovic. Of course, Federer was in all four Grand Slam finals last year, won three of them, and so it’s somewhat ridiculous to talk about him ‘losing his edge’, right? Anyone can have a bad day, or a bad tournament, and Federer himself noted in the press conference that he’s created expectations of monstrous proportions due to his own success over the past years.

I hope he deals well with this slight drop in form—I really want him to break Sampras’s record of 14 Grand Slams, because I think that Federer is a better all-around player than Sampras, with a far more attractive game. I’d love to see him win the French, and think that’s still possible.

In reaching the semifinals at the Australian, Federer extended his own record of consecutive Grand Slam semifinal appearances to fifteen. The previous record was Ivan Lendl’s ten.

Federer retains the number one ranking, and probably will for quite a while yet (extending his current record of two hundred and eight consecutive weeks at the top…). Meanwhile the world number two, Rafael Nadal, was bounced out of the semifinals himself in what was considered an even bigger upset, a straight-sets loss to Jo-Wilfred Tsonga. Is it a changing of the guard? I think it’ll be a while before we see that. If Tsonga wins (and I hope he does) that will definitely shake things up even more, and might herald an era with four elite players, rather than two on clay and one on all other surfaces, which is what we’ve had since 2004.

I think that Federer will bounce back, but he has to get his mentality back, and lose the feeling that he apparently has that winning is now a duty, rather than a passion. Hopefully this particular loss, to Djokovic, will inspire him in that direction, and he’ll come back strong in the other Slams. (I’m also rooting for him to be at number one for 287 weeks consecutively, because then his consecutive total would be greater then Sampras’ record for weeks at number one in total, and that means another two years at the top.)

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