Roger Federer suffers shock defeat to Jeremy Chardy in Rome
It was deja vu for Roger Federer, who suffered an opening match defeat at a Masters event for the first time since the Italian Open in 2010. Jeremy Chardy turned in a plucky performance, saving a match point with a near impossible forehand passing shot, to earn a delightful 1-6, 6-3, 7-6(6) victory over his good friend.
The Swiss was looking to get hold of his claycourt game by turning up in Rome just days after his wife delivered their second pair of twins. But it is back to Basel and the practice courts for the maestro, to spend time with his family and find some much needed rhythm ahead of the French Open in Paris.
Under blustery conditions, with the wind blowing the clay off the court, both players struggled to control their shots. Federer broke serve in the fourth and sixth games of the opening set to gain an upper hand. But after racing through the first set in 24 minutes, the Swiss seemed to lose patience with the gusting winds.
He produced a packet of unforced errors as he struggled to hold serve from 40-15 in the second game. Eventually he held on the second deuce point, but he fell into trouble again in the fourth game. Federer offered two break points to Chardy and the Frenchman did not waste the opportunity this time as he jumped into a 3-1 lead.
Federer had an opportunity to break back in the seventh game, but Chardy saved both break points to retain his hold on the set. The world No. 47, whose solitary title came at Stuttgart five years ago, took his chance to tie the match at one set each when he took his first set point in the ninth game. Federer was far too erratic in the 37-minute set, producing 20 unforced errors compared to just three from Chardy.
The world No. 4 was in trouble early in the decider, but somehow managed to win five straight points to save himself from a 0-40 hole to hold serve. It was a little too much even for Federer to stay afloat when he fell to 0-40 again in the fifth game. Chardy took the break at the third opportunity to gain control of the match.
After holding to love, the bearded Frenchman was only two games from an upset victory over the genial Swiss. But Federer avoided falling into a deeper crevice when he saved a couple of break points in the seventh game.
The set then took a twist for the Swiss when Chardy failed to capitalise on a game point in the seventh game for a 5-3 lead.
Instead, Federer thumped a short ball for a backhand passing shot and a while later, Chardy found the net with his forehand to allow his opponent to draw level at 4-4.
The wind had settled by then and both players held comfortably from there to push the match into a decisive tie-breaker.
Yet again, it was Federer who blinked first, surrendering a mini-break on the fourth point. Chardy accepted it with glee to take a 4-2 lead. However, the Frenchman returned the favour soon, losing serve immediately after that. Chardy then offered the Swiss a virtual pass to round three, when he threw in a double fault at 5-5.
Instead there was sudden drama as the Chardy raced hard to get to a dying ball and strike a venomous forehand crosscourt winner to pass Federer at the net to save the match point. The energy from the point roused Chardy, just as much as it deflated Federer, and the Frenchman took the next two points, off generous forehand errors from Federer, to end the match.
Federer will perhaps regret his decision to play in Rome, but he refused to give anything away in front of the media. “That passing shot is a tough one for me to take, because he’s not going to make that very often,” said Federer. “But it happens and credit to him to fight his way back into the match and get it.”
Allaying any fears about the state of his game, Federer said, “everything is under control. I still feel good, my body is good, my mind is good and it’s just unfortunate, for one passing shot today I don’t get another opportunity to play this week.” But surely Federer will ponder over some of those 43 unforced errors that cost him the match in just over two hours.
He will now return home to Basel to be with his family and practise in familiar surroundings as he prepares for another assault on a second French Open title. For the time being though, Federer, who has been runner-up three times in Rome, still does not have a title from his sojourns to the Foro Italico.