Roger Federer's run at the 2012 U.S. Open came to a surprising conclusion on Wednesday night at the hands of Tomas Berdych. Although it's not the way the 17-time Grand Slam champion wanted the final major tournament of the year to end, he's still had an outstanding season.
The Swiss superstar began the season in a weird position. For the first time in eight years, he didn't have a Grand Slam title to defend. His last major triumph came at the 2010 Australian Open and questions about his decline have been raised on a weekly basis ever since.
Talk of his potential demise seemed to rejuvenate one of the greatest tennis players of all time. After reaching the semifinals of the Australian and French Opens, he started to play like the dominant force fans had come to expect.
At Wimbledon, where he had already won six times and transformed himself from star to legend, he survived a couple tough tests and ended his major drought. He did so despite finding himself in the unusual position of having fans cheering for his opponent, Andy Murray.
It was a vintage performance from Federer. He was crushing winners off both wings and was using his serve as a key weapon to win easy points. Two areas of his game that had slipped a little bit were back at an elite level.
A couple weeks later in the London Olympics, which were contested right back at the All England Club, he once again cruised to the finals. Even though Murray got the better of him the second time around, Federer's silver medal was still his best Olympic performance.
The strong summer combined with the withdraw of friendly rival Rafael Nadal caused expectations for Federer to skyrocket once again when he arrived in New York. So it was shocking to see him get eliminated in the quarterfinals.
That said, for most players on tour, that's a terrific showing. Federer has raised the bar so high during his career that even good performances are often viewed as not good enough.
In the tournament, he did reach the Grand Slam quarters for the 34th straight time. The last time he was ousted before the final eight of a major was the 2005 French Open. It's an amazing streak that may never be matched.
When you consider the depth of the fields, injury problems and just flat out having a bad day on the court, it's tough to make the quarterfinals of any major, let alone every one for more than seven years.
Federer still has a couple big tournaments left before the season ends, including the star-studded ATP World Tour Finals. No matter how he performs the rest of the way, it's safe to chalk it up as a successful season for the maestro.
The top-ranked player in the world proved he's still a threat to win every important event, something people weren't so sure about nine months ago. He probably won't ever dominate like during his prime again, but he's firmly in the contender category.
One loss to a top-10 player like Berdych, who deserves credit for playing one of the best matches of his career on a huge stage, doesn't change anything for Federer.