By Ann Liguori
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On the same day that Andy Roddick said goodbye -- admitting earlier in the tournament on his 30th birthday that it's difficult for him to continue to push himself 100 percent -- Roger Federer, just a year older than Roddick, looked flat against a very sharp Tomas Berdych.
Federer was disappointed with the loss, and he did not blame it on the fact that he hadn't played in four days (his fourth-round opponent, Mardy Fish, withdrew from the tournament).
But one has to question how much longer Federer can continue to muster the intense motivation required, and how much longer he will focus on playing. He looked a bit lackluster against Berdych in his quarterfinal match on Wednesday evening, and does not like playing against the heavy hitters. With the exception of elevating his intensity level in the third set, which Federer took 6-3, the Swiss maestro just could not come up with his usual magic.
Obviously, Berdych was extremely motivated to reach his first US Open semifinal, and he served beautifully. He made less than half the unforced errors that Federer made. And Berdych could draw on memories of beating Federer at Wimbledon in 2010, on hard courts in Miami that same year, in Cincinnati in 2011 and at the Athens Olympics in 2004. Federer, however, had won 11 of their 15 meetings prior to this one.
Federer has said that winning Wimbledon and becoming ranked No. 1 again made this year very special for him. But how much longer can he push himself? How much longer can he stay motivated?
Federer has remained healthy, with the exception of lower back pain earlier in the summer. His movement on the court and style of play looks so effortless and quick. His lightness on his feet must keep his legs fresh.
Physically, Federer looks great. Mentally? It would be fascinating to get into his head to see how Roddick's retirement affected him.
Roddick and Federer are friends, and Federer said that Roddick shared his retirement decision with him prior to making the announcement. Federer must empathize slightly with a player who has made millions of dollars and wants to pursue other interests. And how many more majors does Federer feel he can win?
Federer and his wife, Mirka, have three-year-old twin girls, and he enjoys traveling with them. Roddick is married to model/actress Brooklyn Decker, and he had mentioned that he is ready to spend more time at home in Austin and start a family.
But the more that Federer loses to lower-ranked players in Grand Slam tournaments, the more we have to wonder when it will be Federer's time to call it a career. It's a sad thought about a brilliant player and wonderful person who is such an outstanding ambassador for the game.
This reporter hopes he follows Jimmy Connors' lead and plays into his late thirties.
When do you predict Federer will call it quits? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below...
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