Federer shrugs off defeat with a wry smile

Paris: Two hours after his reign as French Open champion was brutally cut short by Swedish powerhouse Robin Soderling, Roger Federer still managed to find some humour to brighten the mood.

As the Swiss sat down to face the world`s media after his 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 defeat by Soderling, a result that ended a sequence of reaching 23 consecutive grand slam semi-finals, Federer produced an instant riposte with a wry smile.

"They all come to an end at some stage," Federer said of his first failure to reach the last four of a major since Gustavo Kuerten beat him in the third round at Roland Garros in 2004.

"You hope it doesn`t happen, but they do. I mean, it was a great run. Now I`ve got the quarter-final streak going, I guess.”

"It`s been an amazing run. If I could have signed for all those semis in a row, I would have done it right away."

It could get worse for the 28-year-old Swiss who will lose his world number one ranking if Rafael Nadal goes on to win the tournament on Sunday, but Federer remained sanguine.

His early play in the quarter-final against Soderling suggested that he would extend his record against the fifth-seeded Swede to 13-0 but the match turned at the end of a rain-hit third set.

Soderling was 4-5, 0-30 down on his serve when he caught the edge of line with a winning forehand.

Still Federer engineered a point to move into a two sets to one lead but his audacious curling smash from way back behind the baseline was cut off by the Swede`s high backhand volley with a little help from the frame of his racket.

Soderling held for 5-5 and after a lengthy rain delay returned to court to dominate the baseline exchanges, breaking the Federer serve immediately before serving for the set.

Federer just could not get to grips with Swede`s extra power in the fourth as the match, and his cherished title, slipped away. He said the damp, slow conditions had not helped his cause.

"I don`t think I played a bad match, so it`s easier to go out this way," said Federer, who downed Soderling in last year`s final after the Swede eliminated Federer`s claycourt nemesis Rafael Nadal in the fourth round.

"Conditions were on the rougher side for both of us, and I thought he came up with some great tennis.”

"He hit it well. He played aggressive and kept on coming. When the conditions got more heavy when we came back from the rain delay, he played well.”

"These were some serious, tough conditions. If you serve 225, 230kph you can still hit through the court on the serve. I`m lacking those 5 to 10ks but that`s the way conditions are. I can`t complain, it was the same for both of us."

Federer will now pack his bags and leave for London hoping to make a better job of defending his Wimbledon title than he did his French.

"I really felt like my tennis was good enough to come here and do it again, but that was not the case today," he said. "You move on, move on to the grass and forget it a little bit."

Bureau Report

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