Roger Federer’s 2010 clay-court debut has ended early after the Swiss tennis great succumbed to 40th-ranked Ernests Gulbis 2-6, 6-1, 7-5 in the Rome Masters.
The world’s number one player peppered the slick Foro Italico court with numerous unforced errors against his Latvian challenger in the second round of competition on Tuesday. Federer had enjoyed a first-round bye.
“My game was definitely not up to speed,” Federer said. “My serve was not working at all. I hope I can come back from this. That’s usually what I do.”
Federer had been planning to use this tournament, with €2.75 million (SFr3.95 million) in prize money, to warm up for his French Open title defence. He has two more tournaments before heading to Paris.
“Sometimes it takes a loss to wake up and shake you up for your approach the next week,” Federer said. “When you always win, sometimes you forget how hard it is. That’s why today I don’t get too worried about this loss.”
On Monday Federer teamed with Yves Allegro to win a doubles match, but the 16-time Grand Slam champion struggled with his consistency against Gulbis under a light rain.
“I don’t have a word in English for it. It’s indescribable,” Gulbis said of his win, before addressing his jitters. “I couldn’t put a serve in. I was shaking. I didn’t know what to do. It was a terrible feeling.”
Federer reached the semifinal here last year and has been a runner-up twice. The Rome Masters remains one of only three Masters Series events he has never won.
In other matches, Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka easily beat Jürgen Melzer of Austria 6-1, 6-2.
swissinfo.ch and agencies