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German Championships: Surprise defeat leaves Roger Federer plenty to ponder


Roger Federer suffered a shock defeat to Argentinian qualifier Federico Delbonis 7-6 (7) 7-6 (4) in the semi-finals of the German Championships yesterday.

Federer, a four-time champion on the clay courts of Hamburg, was outplayed by the left-hander –  114 in the world rankings. Delbonis will now play in the first final of his professional career.

“He played well, he was a little more aggressive,” Federer said.

The Swiss took a wild card for this tournament after being knocked out in the second round at Wimbledon. The 31-year-old dropped to world No 5 earlier this month, his lowest ranking in a decade. He has won one title this year, on grass in Halle, Germany.

Federer, then the defending Wimbledon champion, lost at SW19 to world No 116 Sergiy Stakhovsky – a player who failed to qualify for Hamburg. It was Federer’s earliest Grand Slam defeat in 10 years, and his first loss to a player ranked outside the top 100 since 2005.

Federer changed his racket after Wimbledon, going for a bigger frame. But he has struggled here, going to three sets in two of his previous three matches.

Delbonis could scarcely believe he had beaten the 17-time Grand Slam champion. “I feel like I’m dreaming,” the 22-year-old said. “My key was to enjoy the match and enjoy playing this kind of  player, because he’s the best of all time.”

In the final, Delbonis will meet Italy’s Fabio Fognini, who moved within one victory of his second title in two weeks when he beat third-seeded Nicolas Almagro.

Delbonis was playing only the second semi-final of his pro career but maintained his composure and gave Federer only two break points, one of which he saved. Federer broke for a 2-1 lead but was broken right back and had to save two set points to force the tie-breaker. He squandered a 4-2 lead, was unable to convert his one set point and saved three with service winners before Delbonis converted his fourth with a smash after some well-played points.

Federer came under pressure immediately in the second set and had to fend off three break points in his opening service game and another in the sixth. Delbonis saved one break point in the next game with a superb volley winner.

In the tie-breaker, Federer made two straight groundstroke errors and he netted a forehand on Delbonis’s first match point.

Delbonis will jump to a career-high ranking of around world No 59 after reaching the final, according to the ATP.

Serena Williams – who, like Federer, also experienced a surprise exit at Wimbledon – defeated Klara Zakopalova 6-0 6-4 in the semi-finals of the Swedish Open to reach  today’s final, where she will take on home favourite Johanna Larsson. After losing the first eight games, the Czech managed to break Williams’s serve and then tie the set at 2-2 before Williams powered to victory.

Larsson had to come from behind to beat Italy’s Flavia Pennetta to win 2-6 6-3 6-4.