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Federer loses to Berdych in Wimbledon quarterfinals

WIMBLEDON, England - Roger Federer covered his face with both hands, no doubt wishing he were doing anything at that moment other than dissecting his latest earlier-than-expected Grand Slam exit.

This one came at Wimbledon, no less - the tournament that he loves more than any other, that he ruled for so long.

After all the victories, all the championships, all the records, Federer now must deal with a new streak: The owner of 16 major titles has lost two consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals in the span of a month.

Federer arrived at the All England Club aiming to reach the final for the eighth year in a row and win a record-tying seventh title. Instead, he leaves before the semifinals, beaten 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 yesterday by No. 12 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.

On June 1, Federer lost in the French Open quarterfinals as the defending champion there, too, putting an end to his unprecedented 23 consecutive appearances in major semifinals.

"God, I can't wait for Paris and Wimbledon to come around next year again, that's for sure, because they've been frustrating tournaments for me, even though it wasn't too bad. Quarters is a decent result," Federer said, as if trying to convince himself along with everyone else.

Until yesterday, Federer was 51-1 at Wimbledon since the start of the 2003 edition.

Federer placed at least some of the blame for this loss on two previously undisclosed health issues: a bothersome back and right thigh.

"I couldn't play the way I wanted to play," said Federer, whose defeat guarantees he will drop to No. 3 in the rankings for the first time since November 2003, according to the ATP. "You just don't feel as comfortable. You can't concentrate on each and every point, because you do feel the pain sometimes."

He said his leg and back have bothered him since the grass-court tournament in Halle, Germany, where Federer lost to Lleyton Hewitt in the final a week before Wimbledon.

Berdych didn't notice anything wrong. "I mean, I don't know if he just [is] looking for some excuses after the match or something like that," said Berdych, who beat Federer at Key Biscayne, Fla., in March, after losing to him eight times in a row.

Berdych next faces third-seeded Novak Djokovic, a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory over 82nd-ranked Yen-hsun Lu of Taiwan.

The other semifinal will match second-seeded Rafael Nadal, a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-1 winner over No. 6 Robin Soderling, against No. 4 Andy Murray, who topped No. 10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 6-2, 6-2.

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