Federer shows chink in armour

Dropped set to Kohlschreiber and tetchy response to questions about Murray expose signs of doubt in the former champion's mind

Maybe it was that he lost his first set of the tournament or the creeping derision over his unfolding career as a fashion model or the tensions that can come with impending fatherhood. But there it was, plain as his native Alps, Roger Federer wasn't quite his recent self yesterday.

This is to say there were moments when he looked something less than the greatest tennis player the world has ever seen.

He was still a beautiful one most of the time, of course, a purveyor of some shot-making which continued to defy belief, but after the first tide laden with this bounty had swept over the Centre Court there was a remarkable sight.

It was of Philipp Kohlschreiber, ranked 32 in the world, still standing on his feet and still, apparently, ignoring that classic advice once given to an overmatched fighter.

The cornerman looked across the ring to Mike Tyson, groaned inwardly, and said, "Make sure you don't land a real punch, that might really piss him off."

Kohlschreiber probably knew that it wasn't wise to similarly incite Federer, especially when, you had to suspect, he was anxious to impress on his audience that whatever Andrew Murray, his most serious challenger here in the absence of Rafael Nadal, could do he could do rather better. That seemed a distinct possibly when Federer ripped two aces past the 25-year-old German in the first game, one won in less than a minute, and threatened to maintain a constant level of such superiority before sliding into something close to a heap of indecision in the third set – one he was apparently controlling as effortlessly as he had the first two. It was at this point, with Kohlschreiber playing shots of extraordinary boldness and Federer's shot selection suddenly becoming somewhat less convincing evidence of natural-born genius, that Murray's progress in the other half of the draw suddenly began to look rather sweetly grooved indeed.

While Murray was imperious in beating the Latvian maverick Ernests Gulbis the night before, Federer had to make a serious self-examination after losing a third-set tie-break 7-5 and, in terms of confidence and nerve, a rather greater margin than that. As it emerged Kohlschreiber had indeed provoked the kind of reaction feared by that old, worldly-wise boxing trainer, Federer served the first game of the fourth set with such ferocity that you had the overwhelming impression that it was very much the brisk beginning of the end of the battle.

That belief was confirmed in the next game, when Kohlschreiber could only have surrendered his serve more pitifully if he had fallen to his knees and wept. This was a pity because the man beaten 6-3, 6-2, 6-7, 6-1 who includes among his recent victims the world No 4 Novak Djokovic, had earlier done something beyond the powers of the vast majority of the world's tennis players.

He made Federer look distinctly vulnerable, at times playing tennis of quite breathtaking adventure and qualifies as one of this tournament's prime victims of a misleading scoreline. Federer was, no doubt, always the likely winner but he has rarely needed to be more forcefully brought to attention. Kohlschreiber achieved this with the sheer quality of his play, and it was something Federer admitted even as he rather tetchily fended off questions about the nature of the Murray performance on Thursday, "I didn't see that match," said Federer, sharply enough, and a little later snapped that talking about a Federer-Murray final was "premature". In fact there had to be a sharp suspicion that Murray's growing aura might just be having a little effect on the psyche of the master player.

Certainly he was keen to stress the positive sides of his performance, of which there were undoubtedly many. Federer said: "I thought it was my best match of the season. I thought the rhythm was very high. We played a lot of tough points. I really thought that from my side it was an excellent match. Of course you also need your opponent to come up with the goods to make it an exciting match and I thought it was. Sure, I would have liked to win it straight, but he came back strong.

"Maybe my serve let go just a little bit. But he started to pick a side a lot as well and took the right decisions at the right time and in the end he deserved the third set.

"I was happy the way I reacted. Sure it was a good test, and why not? I mean, I thought I already played well for the first two matches – you know it doesn't really bother me how I come through. The important thing is to get through and then feel good when you leave the court."

Federer, it has to be said, had moments which cannot have thrilled him as he contemplated a re-match with Robin Soderling, the highly committed Swede who will be anxious to do better on grass than he did on the red clay of Paris in the final which drew Federer to the brink of a record total of 15 Grand Slam triumphs.

Kohlschreiber was philosophical enough after establishing that he had the talent to duel, at least for a little while, with the man who has set the best standards of the game.

"It's always pressure against him," Kohlschreiber said , "he starts so easy and smooth and you think hell, this is going to be tough. But then it's always nice to play against him. He's a funny boy and I like it when he is on the other side of the net. He makes you play as well as you can. Unfortunately, you know that most of the time you gonna lose."

This is especially true, as the old boxing man was saying to his charge, if you have the temerity to try to do some hurting yourself. That Kohlschreiber did this to a considerable degree was clear enough on the face of Roger Federer – not to mention his ruinous reaction to the sound of the last-round bell.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?