If Wimbledon used the best-of-three format for the first week of its men’s matches, three of the top eight seeds would have fallen in their openers to Alejandro Falla, Olivier Rochus, and Kevin Anderson. While the travails of neither Djokovic nor Davydenko surprised us, the near-disaster suffered by the six-time champion was completely unexpected, since Federer had comfortably dismissed Falla twice in the last month. Forced to extricate himself from a two-set deficit, the feckless top seed nearly embarrassed the organizers who placed him atop the draw instead of Nadal. Two potential outcomes could emerge from this excruciating brush with catastrophe, one positive and one negative for Federer. Relieved to have escaped the Colombian, he might well relax in his future matches and remind himself that he managed to win despite playing several notches below his immortal best. Don’t forget what happened after he hovered within five points of a straight-sets loss to Haas at the 2009 French Open, but also don’t forget what happened after he hovered within four points of a third-round loss to Tipsarevic at the 2008 Australian Open. On the latter occasion, Federer’s frailty spurred the rest of the draw to assault him with renewed confidence, which resulted in his only straight-sets loss at a non-clay Slam since 2003 (semifinal vs. Djokovic). Berdych, Roddick, Hewitt, and others should take note of how the defending champion’s tournament began as they devise their plans for how it will end. Meanwhile, Federer’s fellow top seed attempts to make a more authoritative impact tomorrow morning.
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