PARIS – After 23 straight Grand Slam semifinals, Roger Federer’s streak is over.
The world number 1 and defending champion lost in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros on Tuesday, falling 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 to Swede Robin Soderling (5) in a rain-interrupted match.
Friday’s matches will be the first Grand Slam semifinals without Federer since he lost in the third round of the 2004 French Open.
To put Federer’s streak into context, the second longest Grand Slam semifinal run is 10 and is owned by Ivan Lendl, who didn’t miss the last four from the 1985 US Open until the 1988 Australian Open.
Federer was clinical in the first set on Tuesday, hitting 18 winners and making just three unforced errors.
However, the mistakes began to creep into the Swiss master’s play in the second set and Soderling, who ended the reign of four-time champion Rafael Nadal in the fourth round a year ago, was in sublime form.
The Swede, who had lost all 12 of his previous meetings with Federer, including in last year’s final in Paris, was striking the ball to perfection from both sides, and serving unbelievably.
Soderling hit a total 49 winners and his recent improvement was evident as he controlled rallies from the baseline with his thunderous strokes. Federer found himself on the defensive and unable to move forward.
Perhaps the key moment of the match came in the third set when Soderling saved a set point after a frantic rally, then won the set to take the lead shortly after a rain delay of 75 minutes.
“It cannot be much better,” Soderling told the crowd after his latest center-court stunner. “It’s great to play on this court. It’s for sure my favorite Grand Slam.”
It was a cold, damp afternoon, with occasional rain that had some spectators watching from under umbrellas.
But the conditions didn’t seem to rob Soderling’s shots of any sting. He hit winners past Federer even standing two strides behind the baseline.
The upset was all the more surprising because Federer was in control early. He won 22 of his first 24 service points and led 30-love in his first service game of the second set when he suddenly faltered, losing four points in a row.
A backhand wide by Federer gave Soderling his first break, and he held serve the entire set to even the match. It was the first set Federer had dropped in the tournament.
Soderling made a narrow escape to extend the third set serving at 4-5. Trailing love-30, he hit a forehand that was called wide, but the umpire climbed off his chair, checked the mark and ruled the shot a winner. Instead of love-40 and triple set point for Federer, the score was 15-30.
Then, at 30-40, Soderling erased the set point in a wild exchange. He charged forward and hit a slam that Federer scrambled to chase down near the backstop, stretching to whip it back, and Soderling leaped to put away an over-the-shoulder backhand volley.
The crowd roared with delight. Federer looked very unhappy.
Soderling then whacked back-to-back service winners of 139 and 138 mph to hold for 5-all. It was the second consecutive service game he won after trailing love-30.
Rain prompted an untimely delay in the middle of the next game. At that juncture, Federer led by one point after 167 had been played.
The match resumed on a drab evening in a half-empty stadium, and the remaining fans were firmly in Federer’s corner.
But he promptly lost his serve, double-faulting before Soderling whacked a forehand winner for the break. When Soderling hit an ace to seal the set, Federer waved his arms as though helpless.
Because of Federer’s defeat, Nadal will reclaim the No. 1 ranking next week if he wins the title.
The upset raises the possibility of a Nadal-Soderling rematch in the final.
Soderling will play Tomas Berdych in the semis after the No.15-seeded Czech beat Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 on Tuesday.
Francesca Schiavone became the first Italian woman to reach the French
Open semifinals since 1954, upsetting No. 3-seeded Caroline Wozniacki
in Tuesday’s quarterfinals, 6-2, 6-3. Seeded 17th, Schiavone is the
first Italian woman to reach the semifinals at any Grand Slam
tournament in the Open era, which began in 1968.
“I’ll tell you the truth: I can’t grasp the historical nature of what I
did,” Schiavone said. “But the importance of this victory, in itself?
Yes... I’m enjoying it so much. When you work a lot, hard every
morning, every afternoon of your life, and arrive at a good result, I
think you feel much more.”
Schiavone’s opponent Thursday will be No. 5-seeded Elena Dementieva,
who rallied past fellow Russian Nadia Petrova, 2-6, 6-2, 6-0. The
showing is Dementieva’s best at Roland Garros since 2004, when she was