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Assessing Federer's loss; Serena notches career first

Photo: Joern Pollex/Getty Images

Roger Federer's last two losses have come to players ranked outside of the top 100.

Federer falls in Germany. Roger Federer lost on clay to a Spanish-speaking lefty in the semifinals of the German Tennis Championships. So what's the big deal? Well, this wasn't the French Open or a Masters Series event; it was Hamburg. Also, Federer departed from his traditional schedule to play this clay tournament after Wimbledon and before the U.S. Open. Finally, the opponent wasn't Rafael Nadal, but rather Argentine qualifier Federico Delbonis, who entered the week ranked No. 114 -- making this two straight events at which Federer has lost to an opponent outside the top 100.

The armchair career undertakers -- prepared to spritz embalming fluid on Federer's career -- were out in full force. But last week, there were several mitigating factors. Federer was playing with a bad back and clearly limited in his mobility. And, more important, this was his first event playing with the larger racket many have been urging him to consider for years. To his credit, Federer didn't blame his tools.

"He was better than me," said Federer, who was also pushed to three sets in earlier matches against Daniel Brands and Florian Mayer last week. "I don't think it had much to do with the racket."

VIDEO: Federer wins first match with his new racket

The winner takes it all: Another week, another title for Serena Williams. She won her 53rd tournament on Sunday, beating Johanna Larson in the final of the Swedish Open. Here's an interesting stat, though: This marked Serena's first (first!) International-level title. For years, she was the human equivalent of fine china, emerging only for special occasions. If it wasn't a Grand Slam or a mandatory event, she wasn't there. But this far into her career, it's nice to see her playing a different schedule.

Realistically, she faced little competition last week -- her opponent in the final isn't even a top 75 player -- and, yes, she was surely induced in part by an appearance fee. Still, good for her; if nothing else, this will help get rid of the lingering sour taste from her early Wimbledon exit. As Williams put it after the final, "It was really good to come here and win after a disappointing Wimbledon, so hopefully this confidence will help me for the rest of the year."

More winners: At the Claro Open in Bogota, Ivo Karlovic won his first title in five years, beating Alejandro Falla in the final. Given Karlovic's health scare earlier this year, this title must be extra sweet. Delbonis beat Federer to reach the Hamburg final, where he completely unraveled; he failed to convert three match points and lost in three sets to the quirky Fabio Fognini, who won his second title in two weeks. In Bad Gastein, Yvonne Meusburger of Austria won the first title of her career, beating Andrea Hlavackova in the final.

Bonus points

• Sam Groth hit a ridiculous shot in World TeamTennis the other night.

• Nice to see Arantxa Rus snap her 17-match losing streak and win a few matches in Bad Gastein.

• Don't call it a comeback, but it sure is feeling like one. A few days after her Hall of Fame induction, Martina Hingis announced that she was entered the doubles draw of the Southern California Open. Last week, she entered the doubles at the New Haven Open. When she asks for a singles wild card in Asia after the U.S. Open, don't act surprised.

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