Print and Go Back ESPN.com: ESPNTennis [Print without images]

Wednesday, June 30, 2010
The Fed file: A chronicle of recent struggles


The warning signs were there for Roger Federer at the Australian Open.

The usually silky Swiss was in trouble against Igor Andreev in the first round and, in the quarterfinals, versus another Russian in Nikolay Davydenko. Escaping, Federer then cruised in the semis and final to notch a record-extending 16th Grand Slam title. It was all going so well.

Since then, though, Federer has struggled, arming detractors who suggest he's no longer dominant.

ESPN.com chronicles Federer's recent woes:

February: A health hiccup

After visiting Africa as part of his charitable work, Federer is diagnosed with a lung infection. He skips a tournament in Dubai, his second home.

"Breathing is difficult," Federer said. "I'm still very tired and slow. The doctors say it's too serious for me to try [to play], and that I should rest for at least two weeks."

March: The one that got away

He didn't expect much upon his return to the circuit and in the past year has targeted success at majors, but Fed wastes three match points against Marcos Baghdatis in Indian Wells, Calif. He succumbs in a third-set tiebreak to lose to Baghdatis for the first time in seven tries.

"I did many good things but also many bad things," Federer said. "I used up too many chances."

March: The other one that got away

Groundhog Day.

Federer traveled to Miami, only to lose another encounter in which he held a match point. Tomas Berdych (remember the name) took him out in a third-set tiebreak, capping a 2-hour, 51-minute classic.

"[The loss] only fuels my desire to go back to the practice courts and come back even stronger," Federer said. "I don't like to lose these type of matches. I'm looking forward to the clay-court season now."

April: Arrivederci, Roma

Federer bypasses the Monte Carlo Masters, a nonmandatory event, and makes his clay-court debut at the Rome Masters.

He gets a rough draw in his opener, paired against Latvian Ernests Gulbis, and can't eke out another close third set.

May: Still can't get the confidence

Federer visits Estoril, the star attraction at an otherwise low-key event. It wasn't a panic move -- he planned to compete in Portugal before Miami and Indian Wells.

Federer reaches the semifinals and -- in heavy, windswept conditions, which he despises -- can't handle Spanish clay-court specialist Albert Montanes.

His unforced error count almost topped 50 in two sets.

"I'm lacking matches," Federer said. "I must take positives into the next few weeks."

May: Rafa beats him again

The faster conditions in Madrid suit Federer and, sure enough, he makes it to a second straight final, edging Gulbis and dangerous Spaniard David Ferrer in the quarters and semis, respectively.

Confronting archrival Rafael Nadal in the finale, Federer goes 3-for-11 on break points. Nadal prevails 6-4, 7-6 (5) for a sixth win in their past seven head-to-heads.

June: The streak is over

On another rainy day, one of the most impressive streaks in tennis history comes to an end. Having reached 23 straight Grand Slam semifinals, Federer is outhit by Swede Robin Soderling in the French Open quarterfinals, ousted in four sets. No repeat.

Soderling, previously 0-12 against Federer, saved a set point in the third with an outrageous backhand overhead smash.

"Now I've got the quarterfinal streak going, I guess," Federer said.

June: Fortress breached

Federer has a deep affection for the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany, even signing a lifetime agreement with the tournament this month.

Imagine the shock when he was beaten by Aussie scrapper Lleyton Hewitt in the final. Federer hadn't lost to Hewitt in 15 straight. Nor had he suffered defeat in Halle in eight years.

"The loss here doesn't worry me in any way," Federer said.

June: Another chink in the armor

Berdych has a huge game. And he proved his win in Miami was no fluke, overpowering Federer in four sets in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon on Wednesday.

Federer, complaining of a sore back and leg, suffered his earliest exit at Wimbledon since 2002.

He was fortunate to escape in the first round, down two sets versus Colombian journeyman Alejandro Falla.

"Obviously, people think the quarters is a shocking result," Federer said. "But people would die to play in the quarterfinal stages of Grand Slam play. I'm looking forward to rest and then attack again in North America."

Everyone is waiting to see what transpires.