WIMBLEDON, England -- The champ left like a chump. The man who always made the shots this time became the man who could only make excuses. Roger Federer knew how to win. Someone ought to teach him how to lose.
It was a poor showing by Federer on Wednesday, but less so on the court in the Wimbledon quarterfinals. He simply was beaten by Tomas Berdych 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, but he also lost points in the interview room during the post-match press conference.
|Federer said injuries were a big factor in this defeat. (Getty Images)|
He'll be 29 in a few weeks. This is the second consecutive Grand Slam event in which he didn't make it out of the quarters -- after 23 consecutive appearances in the semis.
Nobody goes on forever -- even Federer, who, in denial, seemingly thinks he will and seeks reasons other than the apparent ones.
He blamed a leg injury, mentioned a sore back. "When I did have my chances I played poorly," said Federer. "If I'm healthy, I can handle those guys."
Berdych, a 24-year-old Czech whose potential had been his burden, deserved better. And said as much.
"I don't know if he's looking for excuses," Berdych said of Federer, "It's happened to all of us [the injuries]. I was playing well."
Which Federer, who has won Wimbledon six times, who has won a record 16 Grand Slams overall, barely acknowledged.
A wild few days at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. Monday, Andy Roddick, who lost to Federer in the 2009 final, was ousted. Tuesday, five-time champion Venus Williams was upset. Now Federer.
But there is a difference between Venus and Roger.
When someone asked Venus if "there were any niggles or injury worries you could put down to the fact you didn't play your best," she answered, "I don't talk about injuries, ever."
The talk at Wimbledon is whether one of the four other semifinalists can take advantage of Federer's departure. Berdych will face Novak Djokovic, who beat Yen-Hsun Lu 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in 1 hour, 51 minutes.
The other semi is Rafael Nadal against the almost hometown hero, Scotsman Andy Murray. Nadal was a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-4 winner over Robin Soderling, while Murray, trying to become the first Brit to take men's singles in 74 years, defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-7, 7-6, 6-2, 6-2.
Chat it up: Your serve!
Federer was the No. 1 seed. He had played in the final every year since 2003. But from the start, his first match, against Alejandro Falla, when he lost the first two sets, the once supreme man from Switzerland seemed vulnerable.
When athletes start to fade, they are the last to admit it. Everyone gets old. Everyone loses his fastball or his first step or his racquet speed. Federer isn't quite where Willie Mays was in his 40s, almost an embarrassment, but the decline in tennis is rapid.
Always there's another 18-year-old or 20-year-old -- or as Berdych, 24-year-old -- across the net, another kid who can chase down your best and make you look your worst.
"Quarters is a decent result," Federer insisted.
For some. Not for a player who had not missed advancing to a semifinal of the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon or U.S. Open since he was stopped in the third round of the '04 French.
Not for the player who needed only one more title to tie William Renshaw, from back in the 1880s, and Pete Sampras, from not-so-far back in the 1990s, at seven Wimbledon men's championships.
"Obviously, people think the quarters is shocking," Federer said. "But people would die to play in the quarterfinal stages of a Grand Slam. It's not something I'm used to doing, losing in the quarterfinals. ... I was struggling with my own game and my own [physical condition]."
Berdych, the 12th seed, defeated Federer the previous time they played, in March at Miami, and also reached the semis of the French Open. Maybe he's ascending as Federer is sinking.
Or maybe this was an aberration. Still, Federation needed to be more magnanimous.
"You can take it both ways," Berdych said. "You can say that he was unlucky or you can say that the opponent was a little bit better and he just won the big points against him. In his position, then he lost the match."
Federer was less effective than normal, or what had been normal, on returns. Berdych took advantage to hit winners.
"That's his game," said Federer, who had won eight of the 10 previous matches between the two, including one at Wimbledon in 2006.
"[Wednesday] he took a lot of chances. I tried to slice it. I tried to play aggressive. I had my chances. I don't think I need to change much. ... I definitely gave away this match, I feel."
What Roger Federer didn't give were words of praise for Tomas Berdych, who very much deserved them.