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Federer falls to Gulbis at French Open

Monday, June 02, 2014 - Updated: 8:43 AM

PARIS (AP) -- Everything appeared to be under control for Roger Federer, just like in the old days at Grand Slam tournaments.

And then, suddenly, it wasn't.

One point from a two-set lead Sunday in the French Open's fourth round against 18th-seeded Ernests Gulbis of Latvia, Federer settled under a floating ball and prepared for what should have been a simple putaway. Except, suddenly, it wasn't. Federer sent a meek overhead toward Gulbis, who took advantage of the gaffe, ripping a backhand winner.

That was part of a four-point run that let Gulbis break serve and get very much back into the match, which he wound up winning 6-7 (5), 7-6 (3), 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 to end Federer's streak of nine consecutive quarterfinals at Roland Garros.

"A lot of regrets," Federer said. "I just couldn't kind of figure it out."

It also served as the latest reminder that Federer, now 32 and a father of four, is no longer the nearly infallible force who made it to the closing days of major after major.

"He's Roger Federer," Gulbis said, "but he also gets tight."

Didn't used to be the case. Federer, a 17-time Grand Slam champion, had not left Roland Garros so soon since 2004, when he was beaten in the third round by Gustavo Kuerten.

After that decade-old setback, though, Federer was a quarterfinalist at a record 36 consecutive major tournaments, a streak that ended with a second-round loss at Wimbledon last year. Federer also put together record Slam runs of 10 finals and 23 semifinals in a row.

Now he's bowed out before the quarterfinals at three of the last four majors.

"I think it was the biggest, probably, win of my career," said Gulbis, who most certainly could have dispensed with the word "probably."

Addressing spectators who sang Federer's first name between points as a sign of support, Gulbis said: "I'm sorry I had to win. I know all of you like Roger."

The result fit with the topsy-turvy nature of this tournament: Both reigning Australian Open champions, No. 3 Stan Wawrinka and No. 2 Li Na, lost in the first round; No. 1 Serena Williams left in the second round.

     

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