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Federer's historic semifinal streak will finally get its due

SI.com caught up with Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim after Robin Soderling defeated Roger Federer in the French Open quarterfinals, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.

How surprised are you at today's result?

Surprised and not surprised. Realistically, Federer's results since Australia haven't been great and he's playing on his least favorite surface against a Top 5 opponent. If his streak of 23 straight Grand Slam semifinal appearances were gonna come to end, this would be the time.

But we've said that time and again for the past four or five years -- and it hadn't happened. He's just always had a way of pulling through these matches. Look at the matches Federer had last year at the French before he won it (when he came from behind in five-set victories over Tommy Haas and Juan Martin del Potro): The streak could have ended, but he figured out a way to win.

What does this loss mean for Federer?

If there's anything good about it, it's that Federer's streak -- which I always thought was terrifically underrated -- might finally get put in some perspective. That's the nice part. And again, if he loses at Wimbledon to Nadal in five sets, it's crushing. I suspect this is more bittersweet. He probably isn't as quite gutted today at this stage in his career. I'm sure this will lead to a renewed round of The King is Dead debates among tennis fans.

Can anyone left in the men's draw beat Rafael Nadal?

Well, the guy who beat him last year is still in it. But if I'm thinking it was Nadal's tournament to lose when there were 128 players in the draw, I only like his odds more today. Trite as it sounds, today's match was more proof that anything can happen on any given day. What's too bad is you got the feeling Federer was really looking forward to playing Nadal this year. So that's obviously disappointing.

Do we now assess Soderling differently as a player?

I can't think of two bigger clay-court upsets in the last, say, 20 years. Those are two just massive wins, but you have to follow it up. We'll hold off on the Hall of Fame plaques until he wins a major, but those are just two monstrous wins on clay in back-to-back years.

What does this mean for Wimbledon?

It definitely throws a wrinkle into Wimbledon, in particular if Nadal wins Sunday and inherits the No. 1 ranking next week. The other wrinkle is look out for Soderling, who's not known as a great grass-court specialist. Think about where we were last year: with Nadal losing and then too injured to defend his title [at Wimbledon]. Now suddenly Nadal is probably gonna be your odds-on favorite to pull the summer double again. Things changed a ton from '08 to '09, and now it's like '09 never happened.

Can you put Federer's streak in context?

Here's one way to put it into perspective. If you equate an appearance in the semifinals of a Grand Slam to a top-four finish in one of golf's four major tournaments, where does Tiger Woods measure up? Incredibly, Tiger's longest streak of top-four finishes is five, beginning and ending at the Masters in 2005 and '06.

Look at everything that could go wrong -- one bad day at the office, different weather conditions, jet lag, mono -- all around the world over the course of six years. That brand of consistency is pretty remarkable.

For more from Jon Wertheim and the happenings at Roland Garros, check out today's French Open mailbag.

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