Blake makes stand

American stuns top seed Federer

James Blake had plenty to shout about after knocking off Roger Federer in straight sets in the quarterfinals. James Blake had plenty to shout about after knocking off Roger Federer in straight sets in the quarterfinals. (Charles Krupa/Associated Press)
By Steven Wine
Associated Press / August 15, 2008
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BEIJING - Roger Federer directed an angry scream toward his feet. He swatted a stray ball in frustration. He slapped his thigh, hung his head, and stomped behind the baseline.

And finally, he questioned calls, something he hates to do. That merely made him madder: He went 0-4 on replay challenges.

For Federer, it was that kind of night. It has been that kind of year.

Federer's slump continued and the bid for his first Olympic singles medal ended yesterday when he lost to American James Blake.

Upsets have long been the norm in Olympic tennis - since 1988, no top-five player has won the gold medal in men's singles.

Federer won't do it this year. With the sort of lackluster performance once unthinkable for the stylish Swiss, he was eliminated, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2).

A few contrarians went against the upset trend. No. 2 Rafael Nadal of Spain beat the rain and Austria's Jurgen Melzer, 6-0, 6-4, in a match that ended at 1:08 a.m. Nadal's semifinal opponent will be No. 3 Novak Djokovic of Serbia, who rallied to defeat Gael Monfils of France, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. Top-seeded Mike and Bob Bryan of the United States won their quarterfinal match in doubles against Lleyton Hewitt and Chris Guccione of Australia, 6-4, 6-3.

Blake's semifinal opponent will be No. 12 Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, who defeated Paul-Henri Mathieu of France, 6-4, 6-4.

The No. 8-seeded Blake, a first-time Olympian at 28, was the lone US male to survive the first round of singles. He had won only a single set in eight previous matches against Federer.

"If you play him enough times, he's bound to have an off day," the former Harvard star said. "I proved that I played with the best tonight, and it couldn't have happened to me on a better stage."

But the top-seeded Federer has been stalled all year at 12 major titles, two shy of Pete Sampras's record. His Wimbledon reign ended last month, and he came to Beijing knowing he would lose the No. 1 ranking to Nadal next week after 4 1/2 years on top.

"It was one of the goals of the season for me to do well here," Federer said. "This obviously is a big blow, because I expected more."

Federer said he may have made a mistake this year by playing too much and not practicing enough. But he credited Blake, as well.

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

The elimination of Federer means no rematch in Sunday's final against Nadal, who won in epic fashion when they met for the Wimbledon title.

Federer seemed off his game from the start. His forehand - once the sport's most feared - was unreliable, and he repeatedly struggled to hold serve.

Federer showed life by breaking back in the fifth game of the second set to reach 6-all. But Blake played flawlessly, while Federer made two unforced errors.

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