Swiss third seed Roger Federer’s Rome Masters bid ended with a 7-6 (7/2), 6-4 third round defeat to Austrian 13th seed Dominic Thiem on Thursday.
Federer, who withdrew last week from Madrid with back pain, admitted Wednesday he had been surprised to get past second round opponent Alexander Zverev in straight sets.
Rome marks only the fourth tournament of the season for Federer, who underwent knee surgery in early February, the first operation of his career.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion only decided to face Thiem at the last minute on Central Court, and the Austrian capitalised to finish off an obviously ailing Federer in 1hr 18mins.
In the quarter-finals, Thiem will now play either French 11th seed Richard Gasquet or Japan’s sixth seed Kei Nishikori, who face off in a third round clash later Thursday.
Federer admitted he was happy to exit the tournament, which he has never won, because it will give him time to consider his options as he tries to regain full fitness ahead of next month’s French Open at Roland Garros.
He said he will now consult his team about whether to remain in Italy, travel to France or return home to Switzerland.
But as for competing in Rome, Federer said: “My body’s just not ready… I’m not going to go into specifics, because I’m not in the mood.
“Ten days before (the) Monaco (tournament), I trained really well on clay and I thought it would give me a good chance in Paris.”
His second round win on Wednesday was the first for the 34-year-old Swiss since losing a Monte Carlo quarter-final to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga nearly a month ago.
Federer said his outlook has all changed in the “last couple of weeks” and added: “The way I’m playing right now is not going to be good enough for a good run in Paris.
“It really depends now on the next seven to nine days, how I can really play in Paris. I’m going to have a meeting with my team, talk about options we have, stay in Rome, Paris or go back to Switzerland.
“Should I rest, train, do some more physio? All that stuff needs to be discussed but I’m so happy I didn’t get hurt this week.
“Happy I’m through the tournament now and can look ahead. I can pace myself. In a match you can’t really pace yourself.”
Meanwhile, it could be the beginning of a Rome Masters fairytale for 22-year-old Austrian Thiem, who is approaching 30 wins for the season having secured two titles already and suffered defeat to Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber in the final at Munich nearly a fortnight ago.
Later, defending champion Novak Djokovic faces Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci while seven-time winner Rafael Nadal plays Australian Nick Kyrgios.