Federer shows age in five-set loss

PARIS -- You've seen the play thousands of times:

Roger Federer takes the serve to the ad-court out wide, forcing the right-hander to hit a backhand, then moves forward and, as the opponent scrambles to get back to center, swipes a winning cross-court forehand that actually leaves the court inside the service line.

Facing a critical break point in the fifth set of his fourth-round match with Ernests Gulbis, Federer reached into the archive and ... missed the shot a few inches wide. Gulbis got the break to go up 2-0 and was never seriously threatened on the way to a 6-7 (5), 7-6 (3), 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 Sunday victory at Roland Garros.

These are the kinds of matches that Federer used to win in straight sets. This one required 3 hours, 42 minutes. These days, players like the 25-year-old Latvian can make the 17-time Grand Slam champion look merely ordinary.

"Clearly very disappointed not to come through with the win," Federer said. "After the chance in the second set, fighting back in the fourth, not to play a better fifth set. A lot of regrets here now. But I think Gulbis, you know, did a good job of hanging around and clearly coming back in that second set was crucial for him."

In a period from 2003 to 2010, Federer won 16 of 27 Grand Slam singles titles. And then, in the natural course of things, Federer battled a balky back and lost a half step while a handful of players surpassed him. He won Wimbledon one more time, in 2012, but this is what we are left with going forward for the father of four:

• a second-round loss a year ago at Wimbledon;

• a fourth-round loss at the US Open;

• a semifinal loss at this year's Australian Open;

• and now, this fourth-round loss at Roland Garros.

After nine straight years of reaching at least the French Open quarterfinals, Federer fell one round short.

The sad thing? It was his once-sublime forehand, and by association his nerve, that let him down. Federer stroked 42 winners and a jittery 59 unforced errors. Gulbis, more tidy, had 53 of each. His forehand was stellar. The No. 18 seed has won eight straight matches and will meet No. 6 seed Tomas Berdych in a Tuesday quarterfinal.

Gulbis, who has won two titles this year and entered the event with a career-high No. 17 ranking, is enjoying only his second appearance in the second week of a major. This could be a career-defining win; it was Gulbis' first win over a top-five player in a major.

Federer, who turns 33 in August, came into the match with a spotless 6-0 record in five-set matches at Roland Garros. Now he's 6-1.

Time -- and the law of averages -- is catching up with him. That's the world he now lives in.

Murray wins a cliffhanger

It was past 9:30 p.m. local time Saturday when they suspended the third-round match between Andy Murray and Philipp Kohlschreiber -- at 7-all in the fifth.

Good luck getting any sleep, guys.

"My sleep wasn't good," Kohlschreiber said. "I was sweating a lot. If you finish late, you try to recover. Drink a lot. So quite often to the toilet."

Said Murray, who was cramping toward the end, "The way the match finished yesterday, it wasn't like we stopped at a comfortable stage in the match. You're obviously going to be a bit anxious and a bit nervous when you go to sleep and then also when you wake up in the night, same thing is going to happen."

They played eight more games Sunday, but the No. 7-seeded Murray won the last two and defeated Kohlschreiber 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 12-10. Elapsed time: 4 hours, 7 minutes. Murray won 189 points, three more than Kohlschreiber, and hit 85 winners.

The sometimes-surly Scot meets Fernando Verdasco, a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 winner over Richard Gasquet in a match that was also carried over from Saturday, in a fourth-round match Monday.

This was an important hurdle for Murray because it was his first five-set match since undergoing back surgery late last season.

Afterward, he seemed more excited talking about the NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat, for whom he holds season tickets.

"I think [the Heat have] got a good chance," Murray said. "They have obviously played great in the last game. The Spurs, they're always unbelievably consistent. They always give themselves a chance to win.

"I was reading like in the last 10 years I saw a stat that Tim Duncan had won 622 games in the last 10 years and that LeBron had won 621. They are No. 1 and 2. So they obviously both know how to get their teams winning. It will be interesting."

Djokovic flies into quarters

While the women's draw is in tatters, the collision between No. 1 Rafael Nadal and No. 2 Novak Djokovic seems to be increasingly inevitable.

Djokovic absolutely pummeled No. 13 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 in a match that was over in 89 minutes. The 27-year-old from Serbia had an equal number of winners and unforced errors (18); Tsonga had 38 unforced errors.

Djokovic has beaten Tsonga the past eight times they've met. Here, he's won 12 of 13 sets.

That sets up a Tuesday quarterfinal against No. 8 seed Milos Raonic. The two met only two weeks ago with Djokovic winning in a testing three-set match that featured two tiebreakers.


Overall, young Americans had a good day at Roland Garros, the first featuring junior play. No. 1 seed Francis Tiafoe, a 16-year-old from the Washington, D.C., defeated Clement Larriere of France 6-4, 7-5. ... No. 2 girls seed Catherine Cartan Bellis defeated Australia's Kimberly Birrell 6-3, 6-3 in a first-round match. No. 3 seed Tornado Alicia Black fell to Spain's Paula Badosa Gibert 6-2, 6-1. No. 6 seed Stefan Kozlov defeated Ryotaro Matsumura 6-4, 6-2. Taylor Harry Fritz was a 6-4, 6-2 winner over Ku Keon Kang of Korea. Noah Rubin handled Bastian Malla of China 7-5, 6-3.

No. 8 seed Milos Raonic hammered Marcel Granollers 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 to reach a quarterfinal match against Novak Djokovic, who knocked off Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. ... The No. 15-seeded women's doubles team of Americans Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond fell to the top seeds, Su-Wei Hsieh and Peng Shuai, 6-0, 6-2. ... No. 18 seed Eugenie Bouchard throttled No. 8 Angelique Kerber 6-1, 6-2 to advance to a quarterfinal matchup with No. 14 Carla Suarez Navarro, who got past Ajla Tomljanovic 6-3, 6-3.