Comeback King? What Roger Federer's shock defeat means for Wimbledon chances
Roger Federer’s hopes for an eighth Wimbledon title were left looking increasingly unlikely after a shock defeat by 39-year-old Tommy Haas – ranked 302 in the world - on Wednesday.
Federer suffered his second loss of the season after squandering a match point, and ultimately handing a 2-6 7-6(8) 6-4 victory to his German opponent, the lowest ranked player to beat world No. 5 Federer since 1999.
The defeat comes less than three weeks before the start of Wimbledon – the tournament where Federer has experienced the most success during a career that has seen him win 18 Grand Slam titles in total.
A favourite at Wimbledon, Federer recently took some time out, opting to skip the gruelling clay of the French Open in an attempt to concentrate on the grass-court season after a sterling start to 2017 which saw him win the Australian Open following his return to competition after knee surgery last year.
Roger Federer last won Wimbledon in 2012 against Andy MurrayImago
Federer started the year with his 18th Grand Slam victory in Melbourne, as well as securing the Indian Wells and Miami titles. However, the loss on Wednesday - on Federer’s favoured surface – will leave questions over whether or not the break was a good decision.
This was Federer's worst ever result on grass - and potentially a bad omen in the approach to Wimbledon.
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But does it mean his campaign in SW19 is doomed?
'Not good enough'
Despite Federer's acknowledgement of Haas's potential for upset, the seven-time Wimbledon champ was understandably unhappy with the result.
Speaking after the match, he said:
" Coming here and losing in the semis last year, now the opening round this year, it’s not what I was hoping to do. Especially on grass courts, close to home, in Germany, which has been a good hunting ground for me. It’s not good enough. If you don’t take your chances like I didn’t, leading a set and a break, you really only have yourself to blame at the end. There were definitely some good moments, but I definitely was not as sharp as I was hoping to be in the big moments, or the moment when I had the lead and feel I should have been cruising. I definitely made some crucial mistakes and judgement errors."
But despite acknowledging his missed opportunities, Federer, who hit 23 aces over the course of the match, said there were "positives to take away" ahead of Wimbledon.
" It gives me more time for Halle. As a positive thinker, that’s what I see. I’ve been on grass for over two weeks… It’s good to play a match again. I really feel the body. It feels different right now than it does after practise. It just makes you tired. There are some positives to take away. It will give me good preparation going into Halle and then Wimbledon is soon."
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Just a 'hiccup'
Despite the shock result, Haas said the defeat was "just a hiccup" for his good friend Federer. Haas said:
" He’ll bounce back right away. This will just motivate him to do well in Halle and to be ready for Wimbledon."
Nonetheless, the result marked a determined fight-back by Haas, plagued by injuries in recent years.
He said: "I’m a little bit speechless that I beat him [Federer] today. It’s been a while since I have won back-to-back matches and to do it today against Roger is obviously one of my career highlights.
"This is sport. Unfortunately, one person has to lose and lately a lot of the time it has been me."
Roger Federer (L) congratulates Tommy Haas (R) on his victoryReuters
This was the first time Federer had lost an opening match on grass since 2002 and the result sees Haas become just the third player to have beaten Federer twice on grass, joining Novak Djokovic and Lleyton Hewitt in the exclusive club.
What next for Federer?
Of course the result will set tongues wagging over Federer’s chances of success at Wimbledon, but he does have another test run on a grass court next week at the Gerry Webber Open in Halle, so perhaps it would be premature to write off the comeback king just yet.
The Gerry Webber Open starts in Halle on June 17 with the men's final taking place on June 25.
Wimbledon begins just a week later, on July 3, with the final two weeks later on July 16.