Shanghai:Top-ranked Roger Federer lost consecutive matches for the first time in 4 1/2 years, falling to No 7 Fernando Gonzalez of Chile 4-6, 7-6 (1), 7-5 on Monday at the Masters Cup.
It was the defending champion's first loss in 11 meetings against Gonzalez, and snapped the Swiss star's perfect 15-0 record in round-robin play at the season-ending tournament that features the top eight men's singles players and doubles pairs.
Federer won three Grand Slam titles in 2007 and already has clinched the No 1 ranking for the fourth straight year. But he has been vulnerable over the past month, falling twice to the ninth-ranked David Nalbandian, first in Madrid, then again in the third round at Paris.
The last time Federer lost two matches in a row was in 1993 when he fell in the third round at Hamburg, then the first round at the French Open. He now will likely have to beat Andy Roddick and Nikolay Davydenko to reach the semifinals.
Federer was never in trouble until the second-set tiebreaker, when Gonzalez, who had only won two sets in their previous meetings, stunned him by running off to a 6-0 lead. Federer saved one set point before sending a forehand long to level the match.
Shouting and pumping his fist, Gonzalez had break points for the first time in consecutive games in the third set but couldn't convert. Federer squandered five break points of his own.
Federer looked stunned as Gonzalez whipped winner after winner, and the Chilean finally converted a break to pull ahead 6-5. Gonzalez showed some nerves by double-faulting while serving for the match at 40-0, but Federer sent a forehand wide to end it.
Roddick survives Davydenko
Earlier, Roddick survived a second-set lapse to beat the fourth-ranked Davydenko 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.
Mixing up his powerful serve and forehand with forays to the net, Roddick fended off four break points in the first game, broke Davydenko once to take the first set and again to go up 4-3 in the second.
After appearing in complete control, the fifth-ranked Roddick then won only two points in the next three games as the Russian broke him twice to level the match.
Roddick smashed his racket after missing a forehand wide on set point, then managed to pull himself together, running off five straight games to take a 5-1 lead in the third.
Did it help to break the racket, which he gave to fans afterward?
"For as many times as it's helped me, it's hurt me that many times also," Roddick said. "It's just part of my personality. I've always been pretty expressive and emotional on the court."
After Davydenko held, Roddick finished off the match by holding serve at love. He then had to wait to celebrate as Davydenko challenged whether the final shot on the line was good. It was. Roddick won 16 of 18 points on his serve in the set.
Roddick, who will lead the US team against Russia in the Davis Cup final at the end of the month, has been bothered by injuries that kept him out of tournaments in Madrid and Paris, sandwiched around a first-round loss in Lyon.
But he says he is completely healthy now, taking advantage of the time off to build up his leg muscles and work on his volleys, which looked sharper than in the past.
Roddick's regular coach, Jimmy Connors, isn't here but Davis Cup coach Patrick McEnroe, in Shanghai to do TV commentary, watched from the stands.
American flags dominated the national banners draped around 15,000-seat Qi Zhong Tennis Stadium, which was only about half-full. Two young Chinese women flashed a sign that said "Ace ace baby," and Roddick complied with nine for the match at speeds up to 225 kph (140 mph).
Davydenko said he started nervous, then tired in the third set. With one of the heaviest schedules of any player, he has said he plans to cut back next year because he feels his body is breaking down.
Davydenko's fairly low profile, despite his ranking, has vanished since the ATP began investigating his loss to Martin Vassallo Arguello of Argentina at the Poland Open in August. Betfair, an online gambling company, voided all bets on the match after unusually large amounts were wagered on the lowly ranked Argentine throughout the match, even after he lost the first set 6-1. Davydenko retired with an injury in the third set.
Since then, several players - none in the higher rankings - have reported being approached and offered money to fix matches.
Davydenko also was fined $2,000 by the ATP for "lack of best effort" during a 1-6, 7-5, 6-1 loss to Marin Cilic at St Petersburg last month.
He said he wishes he could go back to being out of the media spotlight.
"That was better," he said.