Roger Federer's fall from the top gathers pace

The former world No 1 is running out of excuses for his poor form.

Roger Federer was a frustrated figure after losing to Jurgen Melzer in Monte Carlo.
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Originally, it was Rafael Nadal who Roger Federer could no longer defeat. Then it was Nadal and Novak Djokovic who Federer could no longer defeat. And now Jurgen Melzer?

We have been here before, wondering if the former world No 1 and 16-time grand slam champion had entered his decline only to see him bounce back. Eventually, however, Federer will be sliding from his perch.

Melzer, the Austrian ranked No 9 in the world, knocked out Federer in the quarter-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters 6-4, 6-4 last week, and again Federer had a variety of explanations for losing. First clay tournament of the year, swirling wind, seven break points squandered, Melzer just plain lucky.

"Either he shanks them and they stay in play, or he hits the line. All those things accumulate to something quite frustrating. That's what made it hard," Federer said.

It perhaps indicates Federer's strength of mind that he refuses to concede that this or that loss is damaging to his psyche. But his post-defeat analyses begin to sound like excuse making.

"I don't think I played terrible," he said after losing to Melzer for the first time. "I thought it was OK. It was still the first week of clay, so I don't expect myself to play my very best."

He added: "Even in the wind, I had all my chances to come back into the match. He did well. I think he played aggressive, was able to mix it up. Obviously, I wasted way too many breakpoint chances, which was unfortunate."

Federer clearly is not the overpowering presence he was from 2004 to 2007 when he won 11 of the 16 major championships contested and 11 of the 12 majors that were not the French.

After Djokovic beat him in the Australian semi-finals in January, Federer does not hold any of the slam titles for the first time since he won at Wimbledon, in 2003. Is it the rise of formidable younger competitors? Or is he not quite the same player?

Nadal's English is not polished, but perhaps he intended to speak in the past tense when he said of Federer: "Always a surprise when Roger loses, because he's unbelievable what he did in this sport."

Federer, 30 in August, remains a formidable player. It still is unusual when he loses to anyone other than the world's top two. But his days of dominating men's tennis appear to be yesterday's news.

The week in tennis

Men’s tour this week

Rafael Nadal won his seventh consecutive Monte Carlo Masters title by defeating his Spanish compatriot David Ferrer 6-4, 7-5 on Sunday. It was his first championship since the Japan Open last year. Nadal has won 37 consecutive matches on the clay surfaces of Monte Carlo.

ATP rankings
Player Country Points
1. R Nadal ESP 12,870
2. N Djokovic SRB 9,640
3. R Federer SUI 8,550
4. A Murray GBR 5,905
5. R Soderling SWE 5,420

Women’s tour this week

Kim Clijsters, the world No 2, suffered a serious ankle injury at the wedding of her cousin and will probably miss the French Open. The big-hitting Belgian was wearing high heels when she stepped on someone’s foot and rolled her ankle, stretching ligaments.

ATP rankings
Player Country Points
1. C Wozniacki DEN 9930
2. K Clijsters BEL 8115
3. V Zvonareva RUS 7815
4. F Schiavone ITA 5171
5. V Azarenka BLR 4630

Barcelona Open

Place: Barcelona, Spain
Venue: Real Club de Tennis Barcelona
Duration: Until Sunday
Prize Money: US$2,240,000
Surface: Clay
Defending champion: Rafael Nadal

Porsche Grand Prix

Place: Stuttgart, Germany
Venue: Porsche Arena
Duration: Until Sunday
Prize Money: $721,000
Surface: Indoor clay
Defending champion: Justine Henin