French Open: Roger Federer falls in earliest Roland Garros exit since 2004

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Gulbis last reached a major quarterfinal at the 2008 French Open. He’s spoken openly about focusing more on enjoying the nightlife than perfecting his craft, and drew attention last week for saying he wouldn’t encourage his younger sisters to pursue professional tennis because a woman “needs to think about family, needs to think about kids.”

The fourth-seeded Federer’s resume includes the 2009 French Open title, and he was a four-time runner-up in Paris to Rafael Nadal. But Federer made an uncharacteristic 59 unforced errors and was broken twice while serving for a set.

That included at 5-3 in the second, when Federer flubbed that key overhead.

“I was lucky, I have to say,” Gulbis said about that point.

Said Federer: “Things got tough from then on for, like, a half-hour for me.”

He lost the last five points of the second-set tiebreaker, and then dropped the third set, too.

Another key moment came when Gulbis left the court with a trainer to take a medical timeout while trailing 5-2 in the fourth. As he walked out, Gulbis motioned to Federer, as if asking for permission to go. When Gulbis returned, some fans jeered and whistled at him, and he pointed to his lower back as if to say, “Hey, I was injured.”

At his news conference, Federer alternated between sounding a little perturbed about the lengthy intermission — and resigned to the idea that what Gulbis did was within the rules.

“He didn’t look hurt in any way,” Federer said. “But if you can use it, you know, might as well do it.”

After that break, the 25-year-old Gulbis displayed the powerful game that had many marking him as a future star when he was a teenager. He won 10 of the next 12 points, punctuating shots with exhales that sounded like growls, and tested Federer’s backhand repeatedly.

In the last set, Gulbis raced to a 3-0 lead, thanks largely to Federer miscues. After one errant forehand, Federer swatted a ball in anger, a rare sign of exasperation from him.

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