LONDON: Roger Federer crashed out of Wimbledon on Wednesday as Czech 12th seed Tomas Berdych clinched a stunning 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over the defending champion in the quarter-finals.
Federer has been almost untouchable at Wimbledon for the last seven years, winning the title six times and appearing in every final since 2003, but his reign was brought to an end in sensational fashion here on Centre Centre.
Just 24 hours after five-time champion Venus Williams was ousted from the women`s singles by unknown Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova, it was Federer`s turn to experience a humbling exit from the tournament which he has graced for so long.
Since losing in the first round to Croatia`s Mario Ancic in 2002, Federer had been beaten just once at the All England Club -- when Rafael Nadal out-lasted him in the 2008 final.
But Berdych produced the performance of his life to earn a semi-final meeting with Serbian third seed Novak Djokovic and leave Federer to contemplate the latest in a growing line of disappointing results for the 28-year-old.
After dropping three sets in the first two rounds here, the top seed had produced a pair of comprehensive victories to make the last eight, but those results were only papering over the cracks in Federer`s game.
By his own high standards 2010 has been a forgettable year for Federer, who has now failed to win any of his eight tournaments since beating Andy Murray in the Australian Open final in January.
Federer`s run of 23 successive Grand Slam semi-final appearances was snapped at the French Open and he even lost for just the second time in 78 matches on grass when Lleyton Hewitt beat him in the final at Halle earlier this month.
After this devastating loss -- his second successive grand slam quarter-final exit, the world number two is certain to be subjected to uncomfortable questions about whether he still retains the hunger needed to sustain his remarkable run of success.
Although Federer had won eight of his previous 10 encounters with Berdych, the Czech only had to think back to his win in their last meeting -- in Miami in March -- for evidence that he could shock the champion.
Standing a lofty 6ft 5in (1.95m) tall, Berdych has the perfect frame to deliver a barrage of big serves and his fearsome delivery kept Federer from establishing any momentum in the first set.
The 24-year-old had never been past the last eight here but he was in fine form after making the French Open semi-finals earlier this month.
Here he was able to test Federer with some booming ground-strokes and, at 3-3, he got the first break of serve when the Swiss tenatively guided a backhand out.
Federer was struggling to get any kind of read on Berdych`s serve and the underdog had few problems serving out the first set.
In the second set, Federer was at least able to get Berdych`s serve back into play so the 16-time grand slam winner could start to put pressure on the Czech and he quickly earned two break points.
He converted the first with a brilliant passing shot on the run that curved away from Berdych before landing just inside the baseline.
Federer had the advantage and he held onto it comfortably enough to take the set.
There was still a lack of urgency about Federer though and Berdych regained the initiative when the Swiss star netted a volley to surrender his serve in the second game of the third set.
Berdych broke again in the sixth game and quickly served out to take a two sets to one lead.
Federer had escaped from an even more perilous position in the first round when he came from two sets down to defeat Alejandro Falla. But Berdych had never lost a five-set match at Wimbledon.
Even when Federer earned four break points in the sixth game of the fourth set, Berdych was able to serve his way out of trouble.
The sense that Federer had run out of ideas about how to break Berdych was growing by the game and the strain was beginning to tell on his own serve.
Berdych kept hammering away from the baseline and broke for a 4-3 lead when Federer volleyed wide.
Federer made him serve out the match and had a chance to survive when he saved one match-point and earned a break point.
But he netted a forehand and Berdych made him pay to seal one of the biggest upsets in Wimbledon history.
BDST: 2225hrs, June 30, 2010