Federer stuns tennis world, loses set

Roger Federer watches the flight of his return shot to Philipp Kohlschreiber in a third round singles match on centre court Friday at Wimbledon.<BR><I>AP?photo</I>

WIMBLEDON, England - Lo and behold, Roger Federer actually lost a set at Wimbledon on Friday.

Not a match, mind you, just a set, which in and of itself counts as news. Dating to the start of the 2003 tournament, after all, Federer is 43-1 at the All England Club, dropping a total of 11 sets along the way.

Here's the part that's interesting - and perhaps intimidating to future foes: Federer called his 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-1 victory over 27th-ranked Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany in the third round his best performance of the week. And now, because Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam tournament that rests on the middle Sunday, Federer gets a full weekend for a little R-'n'-R.

"It's nice to have Saturday, Sunday off. It's nice get off all the pressure for a day or so before you get sucked into it again," Federer said. "I like to go to the city. I don't do it that often."

So he'll head out to a nice dinner in London with his pregnant wife, then get back to work Monday, facing a familiar opponent: Robin Soderling, the man Federer beat in straight sets in the French Open final this month to complete a career Grand Slam and tie Pete Sampras' record of 14 major titles.

Federer is trying to break that mark by collecting No. 15 overall with a sixth Wimbledon championship this fortnight, while the 13th-seeded Soderling will make his debut in the round of 16 at the All England Club after beating Nicolas Almagro 7-6 (7), 6-4, 6-4.

Serena Williams almost didn't make it to her court on time, appearing fashionably late to play Roberta Vinci of Italy.

What happened? The 2002-03 Wimbledon champion was waiting for an escort.

"I thought someone was going to come get me," Williams explained after beating Vinci 6-3, 6-4 to improve to 172-28 in Grand Slam play, an .860 winning percentage that's the highest among active women. "I was waiting and waiting. Finally I was like, 'OK, I think I'm just going to go out.' I'm used to someone coming and saying, 'OK, let's go."'

The second-seeded Williams next plays Daniela Hantuchova, a straight-set winner against her doubles partner, Ai Sugiyama. Elsewhere, the woman who eliminated 2004 champion Maria Sharapova in the second round, Gisela Dulko, lost to No. 10 Nadia Petrova 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

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