Federer is upset by Blake; Serena, Venus also are out

08/15/2008 10:45 AM

08/15/2008 10:46 AM

BEIJING — It was strange enough to see Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Venus Williams all lose their Olympic quarterfinal matches Thursday night.

It was downright bizarre that the three Grand Slam champions were still at the Olympic Green Tennis Center at 1:30 a.m. Friday Beijing time waiting out a rain delay to complete their doubles matches.

"This is definitely insane and weird," Serena Williams said.

The matches were finally called off at 1:35 a.m., and pushed back. Some players were still doing interviews at 2 a.m.

Heavy rain had postponed the start of play nearly four hours, and the schedule got backlogged. Fans who waited out the delay witnessed three huge upsets.

Federer was the first to go down, to James Blake of the United States. Serena Williams fell to soft-serving Russian Elena Dementieva. And Venus Williams fell victim to China's Li Na.

The What's-Wrong-With-Roger questions will continue after he was stunned in straight sets by Blake, who was 0-8 against Federer before Thursday. Blake kissed the American flag on his shirt after knocking off a frustrated Federer 6-4, 7-6 (7-2).

"I'm speechless," Blake said. "This is unbelievable. It's not very often you get to say you beat the No. 1 player in the world anytime, but to do it at the Olympics with USA on your chest, I'm so proud to be part of this team. I'm inspired by other great athletes on the tennis team, and in every team from swimming, track and field, everyone that's inspired me got me through this win."

Federer committed an uncharacteristic 56 unforced errors, and never found his rhythm. He tried three different rackets and mumbled to himself, but nothing worked.

Federer was eager to win a gold medal, especially because he will lose his No. 1 ranking to Nadal on Monday. Federer has been atop the sport for four years, but Nadal will take over after a spectacular three months in which he beat Federer in the finals at the French Open and Wimbledon, and won five tournaments.

The Spaniard advanced to the Olympic semifinal against Novak Djokovic. Federer, meanwhile, has won only two minor tournaments in 2008.

An Olympic medal is still missing from Federer's resume. He went home empty-handed in 2000 and 2004. He still could win a medal in doubles. But he heads home with more questions.

"Big disappointment, obviously," he said. "It was one of the goals of the season for me to do well here. So obviously the quarterfinals is not going to do it for me. I think James played well. He went full out and hit everything he needed.

"I've played him on many occasions, but I think this was the best I've seen him. I'm happy for him. He's a good guy. I hope he can go all the way now."

Blake, who plays big-hitter Fernando Gonzalez of Chile next, conceded Federer had an off-day. But he still has great respect for the Swiss.

"This doesn't by any means mean I'm better than him because I beat him one out of 10 times or whatever," Blake said. "But I was finally able to come up big on those important points. I think this being considered a bad year for Roger is just proof that he's been the best in the world for so long that we expect great things from him every single time he steps on the court."

Serena Williams admitted she came unglued against Dementieva. She seemed in control of the match for a set and a half, and then unraveled.

Her older sister, Venus, fell 7-5, 7-5 to Li, who is ranked No. 42 and was inspired by a spirited home crowd.

"She played the match of her life and there wasn't much I could have done," Venus Williams said. "I lost my rhythm. It happens. She's had some nice results in her career, but nothing like this, especially against a player like me. It was definitely a surprise result for me."

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