As an fan of tennis, and of Roger Federer, Wednesday was a dark day — really dark.
It was the day that Federer fans knew would come, but you hoped it would take a while. The streak ended, and Federer looked his age, but you never thought it would end here against this guy.
For 36 straight grand slams, which is nine years, Federer was going to play in the at least the quarterfinals. You could write in four wins in ink.
It is an amazing streak considering that the next longest streak in the open era of tennis is 16, which is an active streak by Novak Djokovic. Jimmy Connors also made 27 quarterfinal appearances in grand slams he participated in, but the number is far from impressive since he skipped at least a dozen grand slam tournaments during that span. He pretty much focused on Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Federer came to work every time.
During Federer’s streak, he played in 10 straight grand slam finals and 23 straight semifinals — both records.
When Federer places his racket in his bag for the last time, he will go down as the greatest of all time. Any argument between Federer and any of his peers has faded away over the years as he surpassed the legends of the game and fended off would-be challengers to his crown.
As of Wednesday’s loss, Federer owns 17 grand slam titles — three more than Pete Sampras’ 14 and five more than the No. 2 active leader Nadal, whose career appears to be on the decline since only one grand slam tournament is held on clay.
While Nadal is clearly the master on clay, Federer was supremely accomplished on all surfaces with seven titles at Wimbledon, five at the U.S. and four in Australia. He has just one French title, but he has played in the final five times — losing to Nadal four times.
Federer owns other marks that will be tough to catch as well. He is the all-time leader of grand slam matches won with 257 as of Wednesday. He passed Jimmy Connors, who had 233 and is well ahead of other active players Nadal (164) and Djokovic (147).
Unlike Connors, who picked up most of his success at just two venues, Federer has done it at all four sites. He is the only player with at least 58 match wins at all four sites. By contrast, Nadal has only 50 wins at one of the four, and Djokovic has between 33 and 39 wins at each of the four.
While I hope Federer will continue to be among the elite for a year or two more, he is clearly not the unbeatable machine he was for nearly a decade.