This just in. Roger Federer is human.
The world of tennis doesn't know whether to be shocked or relieved. Is this a good thing or a disaster?
To the organizers of the Pacific Life Open tournament at Indian Wells, a prestigious event that ranks right behind the Grand Slams in stature, it is a disaster. Their marquee guy is gone. As far as the general public is concerned, the 10-day men's draw of this Tennis Masters Series tournament was a three-day-and-over deal. Look for that Janko Tipsarevic-Guillermo Garcia-Lopez Sunday final. Get your tickets now.
When the world's No. 1 player, a guy who loses every eight months or so, succumbed to qualifier Guillermo Canas of Argentina, on the massive stadium court here, in front of about 12,000 disbelieving fans, there was an inclination to check the water in the desert. Did something funny get in there?
There were lots of explanations for Federer's loss:
* He played a few practice sets in Los Angeles last week with Pete Sampras, and Sampras destroyed his self-esteem.
* He knew that one more victory would bring his string to 42 in a row, tying John McEnroe's run in 1984 and incurring the wrath of McEnroe for years to come on Wimbledon telecasts of his matches.
* He had forgotten that it was possible to lose an opening match, since the last time he did that was in August 2004.
* He didn't figure the ATP Tour would allow him to lose to Canas, who was hit with a 15-month suspension in 2005 for taking a hydrochlorothiazide steroid and has only been back on the tour for five months. Federer probably figured they would put up a sign after the match that said the official result would be posted after they checked the A and B samples.
* Canas got into the event as a "lucky loser," and Federer, along with the rest of the world, didn't understand the term and thought that meant his opponent would hit a lot of lines but still lose. In tennis, "lucky losers" are those who lose in the qualifying but still get into the main draw when somebody else drops out late.
Canas might have been considered a dangerous floater coming into the match. Before Drug Gate '05 -- Canas said he was given a wrong cold medicine in Acapulco in February of that year, was told five months later by the ATP Tour that he had a positive test and spent $700,000 on lawyers to get his suspension reduced to the 15 months -- he got to No. 8 in the world. That was in June 2005, just before the ATP came and knocked on his door.
Clearly, the Argentine can play. He got to the quarterfinals of the French Open twice, to the semifinals here in 2005 -- again, before the ATP cops showed up -- and won a Canadian Masters Series tournament in 2002. Coming into this season, his career earnings were $3.8 million, which helped with those lawyers' fees.
Still, this was Federer he was playing, in a stadium and on a court where the Swiss maestro has won the last three titles. The last time Federer lost here was to Gustavo Kuerten, in 2003, a total of 18 matches ago.
So was this unexpected? Is McEnroe opinionated ?
Ivan Ljubicic, one of those who has played Federer tough in the past and was hoping for a shot at him here, said earlier Sunday that Federer is so good he has the rest of the tour psyched.
"He makes everything so simple," Ljubicic said. "And his simple is too much for the rest of us."
Later in the day, Canas simply beat Federer.
Federer's explanation? "He was just a guy who put me away when he had to," he said.
We'll go with the "something in the water" theory, and pose additional evidence:
Marcos Baghdatis lost to Garcia-Lopez in straight sets, as did Tomas Berdych to Michael Russell. Marat Safin not only lost but did so in a 6-0 bagel in the third, to somebody named Nicolas Mahut. Lleyton Hewitt lost to Tipsarevic. And Ljubicic was down a set and 4-1 to qualifier Alejandro Falla before figuring it out.
You can almost see next year's Indian Wells marketing slogan: See Great Tennis. Don't Drink the Water.
\o7Bill Dwyre can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For previous columns by Dwyre, go to latimes.com/dwyre.