Federer, seeking a ninth title at the grass-court grand slam, was comprehensively beaten in straight sets by the relatively unfancied 14th seed Hubert Hurkacz on Wednesday (July 7).
The 39-year-old was beaten 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 6-0 on Centre Court, missing out on becoming the oldest male to reach the semi-finals of the championship in the Open Era.
Wimbledon 2021: Roger Federer stunned by Hubert Hurkacz; Swiss great’s quest for ninth title ends
Three-time champion Becker thought the manner of Federer’s defeat, in which he hit 31 unforced errors and suffered the ignominy of losing a set to love for the first time in his Wimbledon career, could leave him questioning whether this was his last visit.
“I don’t know if we’ll ever see the great man again here,” he said to the BBC.
“It’s normal for anybody to make mistakes, but if you’re such a perfectionist as Roger Federer, some of these mistakes were way out of his league.
“It can happen in a game or a set even, but in his case it was pretty much the whole match.
“As they always say, time doesn’t stand still for any man or woman.”
Federer came into this year’s tournament having played just eight matches in 2021 following a lengthy recovery from knee surgery.
The 20-time major winner battled through the first round when Adrian Mannarino retired in the fifth set but looked to have regained some sharpness in victories over Richard Gasquet, Cameron Norrie and Lorenzo Sonego.
After losing the opening set against Hurkacz, Federer let a 4-1 lead slip in the second before succumbing in the tie-break, after which he never regained a foothold in the contest.
“Maybe in the first round he was trying to find his feet, he was lucky to get through, but in the following matches, he played better and better. Did he have a perfect match? No, but he had moments of perfection,” said Becker.
“On paper, he was the favourite today. For him to go out and lose potentially his last ever set six-love… oh, God.
“I hope [he comes back in 2022], I don’t want to see Roger losing his last set here. But there are certain rules in professional tennis that even Roger Federer has to obey: it’s matches. You don’t get your match fitness in practice, you’re not going to get it in rehab. You don’t know how strong your knee, your thigh or your mind is unless you’re put in a position [to win]. He wasn’t good enough today.”
Becker drew parallels between Federer’s defeat and his own 1995 final loss to Pete Sampras – a match that convinced him his time on tour had come to an end.
However, the former world number one advised Federer to play the remainder of the year and see if he can start 2022 on a positive note.
“My moment came when I lost to Pete Sampras in the Wimbledon final of 1995. I thought I was playing good, and I lost in straight sets against the better player,” he said.
“I always felt that, when I’m not able to win Wimbledon anymore, why bother coming? Roger won it eight times; he’s not coming here to play a tough quarter-final. He’s coming here to win.
“He has to take a bit of a rest, play the hard-court season, go to the US Open and play the rest of the year. Go to Australia – he won there a couple of times – and hopefully win another tournament or two. Only then [will] he realise if he’s good enough still to compete at the highest level.”
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