Federer upset by 19-year-old Murray in Cincy
MASON, Ohio -- Roger Federer was the only one who saw it coming.
Too much tennis, too little time off. The world's top player knew it was the perfect combination for a long-awaited upset, one that a disbelieving British teen pulled off Wednesday.
Andy Murray's 7-5, 6-4 victory in the second round of the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters ended Federer's 55-match winning streak in North America and provided his earliest tournament exit in two years.
The streak included two U.S. Open titles that helped stamp Federer as one of the sport's all-time best players.
"The streaks? I don't care about those now that they're over," said Federer, who hadn't lost in straight set in his last 194 matches. "It's going to be a relief for everybody, and now we can move on."
in the Open Era
Federer's last loss on the continent also came at the Cincinnati-area tournament, when Dominik Hrbaty beat him in the first round on Aug. 3, 2004. He had a premonition that the streak might end there as well.
He beat Richard Gasquet in three sets on Sunday to win a Masters Series title in Toronto and then had only one day to travel, sneak in a little practice and get ready to resume the grind. He thought there was a good chance he'd get knocked out early.
"Two Masters Series back-to-back -- 12 matches in 13 days -- it's something of the impossible," he said.
The loss left Federer 62-5 this year and ended his bid to match one of the sport's enduring marks. He had reached the final of his last 17 tournaments since June 2005, one shy of matching Ivan Lendl's Open era record of 18 straight such finishes since 1981-82.
The numbers were so daunting that the 19-year-old Murray -- in only his second year on the tour -- didn't think he had much of a chance to pull off the upset.
Murray had been playing well, winning 18 of his last 23 matches. He made it to the semifinals at Toronto, and his ranking was a career-best 21 heading into the Cincinnati tournament.
He could see right away that Federer's game was off but wasn't very comforted.
"I know Federer didn't play his best match, but how many guys beat him when he's playing badly anyway?" Murray said.
The answer: Almost none.
When Federer's final return sailed out -- like so many before it -- Murray was so overwhelmed that he didn't go wild. He went numb.
"I don't know what to say," said Murray, who calmly jogged to the net to shake Federer's hand. "I didn't know how to react at the end, because I definitely was not planning on winning the match."
Murray became only the second player to beat Federer this year, joining No. 2 Rafael Nadal. Federer had won his previous 19 matches and was 85-2 on hard courts over the last two years heading into the match.
Staying calm throughout, Murray took advantage of Federer's problems with his serve and his backhand. Murray broke his serve seven times, including three in a row to help him close out the first set.
"I didn't get nervous at all," Murray said. "I just kind of went with it. That's what happens when it's meant to be."
Federer took the loss with the same feeling that it was almost bound to happen.
"I'm not disappointed," Federer said. "There's no reason to be. It was an incredible run. You always expect a loss once in a while, so when it happens, why be disappointed?"
James Blake was sure disappointed after another second-round loss Wednesday, one that made him wave his arms and swat a ball over the grandstands in frustration. Juan Carlos Ferrero took advantage of Blake's lapses for a 6-2, 6-4 victory that showed how much work the top-ranked American has to do before the U.S. Open.
"The two most important parts of the game -- serve and return -- were what let me down most today," Blake said. "I felt OK in practice. I just had another bad day. It was one of those days where when I guessed, it seemed like I guessed wrong."
Blake won his third ATP title of the year last month in Indianapolis but now has a pair of second-round exits and some problems to work on next week at the Pilot Pen tournament in Connecticut.
"I'm going to hope that I'm back to getting all the breaks and feeling confident next week," he said. "I think if I win a match or two and things are going my way, there's no reason I can't start getting all the breaks at the U.S. Open."
Ninth-seeded Andy Roddick, playing in his first tournament since he strained his left side last month, looked smooth while beating Kristof Vliegen 6-4, 6-4. Roddick was much more tentative in his opening-round match, protecting his side.
"I felt I played the match on my terms," Roddick said. "Everything was a lot better than yesterday."
In other matches involving seeded players, Nadal beat Lee Hyung-taik 6-4, 6-3; Stanislas Wawrinka beat No. 3 David Nalbandian 6-4, 6-2; No. 4 Ivan Ljubicic beat Mikhail Youzhny 6-4, 7-6 (5); No. 7 Tommy Robredo beat Max Mirnyi 6-4, 6-4; No. 8 Marcos Baghdatis beat Gael Monfils 7-6 (8), 2-6, 6-1; and No. 14 Tommy Haas beat Gilles Simon 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press