Roger Federer lost to Robin Soderling in the quarterfinals of the French Open, thus snapping his remarkable streak of playing in 23 straight Grand Slam semifinals. Though the record doesn't have the cachet of DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak or the staggering longevity of Cal Ripken's consecutive-games mark, it should end up standing alongside those hallowed baseball streaks as the most impressive in the history of sport.
The last time Federer failed to make it to the semifinal at a Slam was six years ago in Paris. There, he lost to Gustavo Kuerten in the third round. Since then, Federer had never failed to advance to the semifinals, a run which stretched almost six years, 14 Grand Slam titles and 139 Grand Slam victories. As those numbers show, Fed won 14 of those 23 tournaments and made it to the finals in six more, meaning he had played for the title in 20 of the last 23 Grand Slams. (That achievement may be even more amazing than the semifinal streak, but it's not a streak so it doesn't count for the purpose of this discussion.)
Context is important in gauging the impressiveness of any streak, and Federer's stands up to such scrutiny. At the time Federer's streak began, the Open era record for most consecutive semifinal appearances was 10. Ivan Lendl held the record, which had stood at six before he broke it. Federer passed that mark back in 2007.
By the time he was done, Federer didn't just extend the record, nor did he simply shatter it. He doubled it, and then for good measure added 30 percent more to that total. It's like if Barry Bonds had broken Hank Aaron's home run record and then hit 929 more.
Could Federer's record ever be broken? Let's put it this way: As of 3:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday afternoon, Rafael Nadal's current Grand Slam semifinal streak is zero. The only two men on the ATP Tour with active streaks are Soderling and Tomas Berdych (the other man who won a Tuesday quarterfinal). Both their streaks are at one. The old saying is "never say never," but I feel quite comfortable in saying that this mark is never going to be surpassed.
So instead of lamenting the demise of Roger Federer's semifinal streak, let's celebrate it. We've been witnesses to the greatest sustained run of tennis in the history of the sport. Thanks, Roger.