U.S. Open: Federer falls to 55th-ranked Aussie in shocking 4th-round loss
5-time champ loses to player outside of top 50 for first time
Roger Federer served poorly. He volleyed poorly. Closed out sets poorly, too. And now he's gone, beaten at the U.S. Open by an opponent ranked outside the top 50 for the first time in his illustrious career.
Looking slow and tired on a sweltering night in Arthur Ashe Stadium, the No. 2-seeded Federer double-faulted 10 times, failed to convert a trio of set points and lost 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (3) in the fourth round to John Millman in a match that began Monday and concluded at nearly 1 a.m. on Tuesday in New York City.
Watch highlights of Federer's stunning defeat:
To Federer, it was all about the heat and the humidity. With the temperature near 30 C, even with the sun down, and the humidity at about 75 per cent, he was unable to summon his usual verve.
"Was just one of those nights where, I guess, I felt I couldn't get air. There was no circulation at all. I don't know, for some reason I just struggled in the conditions tonight. It's one of the first times it's happened to me," the 37-year-old Federer said. "It's uncomfortable. Clearly just keep on sweating more and more and more and more as the match goes on. You lose energy as it goes by. But John was able to deal with it better."
It's only the second time in Federer's past 14 appearances at the U.S. Open that he's lost before the quarter-finals. He is, after all, a five-time champion at the tournament, part of his men's-record haul of 20 Grand Slam titles.
"In all honesty, Roger's a hero of mine. I look up to him," said Millman, an Australian who is 29. "I felt a little bit guilty today, because he didn't have his best day, and that's for sure. I know that. I'm very aware he didn't have a great day in the office. Probably, to beat him, I needed him to have an off-day and I needed to have a decent, good day."
So much for that much-anticipated matchup between Federer and 13-time major champion Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals. Instead, it'll be the 55th-ranked Millman, who had never made it past the third round at a Slam until last week, taking on No. 6 seed Djokovic.
Stunning double faults
Millman was adamant he would not be intimidated by Federer, and perhaps was helped by having spent time practicing together a few months ago ahead of the grass-court portion of this season.
Still, this was a stunner. Not simply because Federer lost — he entered the day 28-0 at the U.S. Open, and 127-1 in all Grand Slam matches, against foes below No. 50 in the ATP rankings — but how he lost. Start with this: Federer held two set points while serving for the second at 5-4, 40-15 and did not pull through; he had a set point in the third at 6-5 in the tiebreaker, but again was stymied.
In the fourth set, he went up a break at 4-2, yelling "Come on!" and getting all of those rowdy spectators in their "RF" gear on their feet, prompting the chair umpire to repeatedly plead for silence. But Federer uncharacteristically got broken right back with a sloppy game, most egregiously when he slapped what should have been an easy putaway into the net.
And then there was his serve.
In the final tiebreaker, he double-faulted twice in a row.
The first obvious signs of trouble for Federer came far earlier, in the second game of the second set. He started that 15-minute struggle by missing 18 of his initial 20 first serves. While he eventually held there, he needed to save seven break points along the way. It was clear that the 37-year-old Federer was not at his best.
Much earlier, Djokovic left the court for a medical timeout — the second time during the tournament he's sought help from a doctor because of harsh weather — during what would become an otherwise straightforward 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory over 68th-ranked Joao Sousa of Portugal.
Watch highlights of Djokovic's easy win:
"I'm not 21 anymore. That was 10 years ago. I still don't feel old. But at the same time, there is a little biological clock that is not really working in your favour," Djokovic told the crowd afterward. "Sometimes, you just have to survive."
He reached the quarter-finals for an 11th consecutive appearance in New York as he bids for a third U.S. Open championship and 14th Grand Slam trophy.
Cilic sets up rematch with Nishikori
The other quarter-final on the bottom half of the draw will be a rematch of the 2014 U.S. Open final: No. 7 Marin Cilic against No. 21 Kei Nishikori.
Cilic, who beat Nishikori four years ago for his only major title, was a 7-6 (6), 6-2, 6-4 winner against No. 10 David Goffin, while Nishikori advanced by defeating Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-2, 7-5.
Keys overwhelmed No. 29 Dominika Cibulkova 6-1, 6-3 thanks to a 25-7 edge in winners and now will face No. 30 Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain. Suarez Navarro, who was celebrating her 30th-birthday on Monday, became the first player to beat five-time major champion Maria Sharapova in a U.S. Open night match, eliminating her 6-4, 6-3.
Sharapova won the U.S. Open as a teenager. More than a decade later, she can't seem to make it past the fourth round.
Watch Suarez Navarro end Sharapova's perfect run:
With a mistake-filled performance, Sharapova lost a night match at Flushing Meadows for the first time in her lengthy career, beaten 6-4, 6-3 by No. 30 seed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain.
"Just a little too up-and-down," is the way Sharapova described her performance.
It's the third consecutive appearance that ended one step short of the quarter-finals for the 31-year-old Sharapova, who had been 22-0 under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Sharapova collected the trophy in New York at age 19 in 2006 and owns a total of five Grand Slam titles, but the Russian was far shakier during this match than Suarez Navarro, who never has made it past the quarter-finals at a major.
The Spaniard, who turned 30 on Monday, will be at that stage for the second time at the U.S. Open, five years after her other run to that round.
"A really complete performance," is the way she described her play.
Ready for Keys
On Wednesday, Suarez Navarro and her smooth one-handed backhand will take on 2017 runner-up Madison Keys of the United States. Keys advanced by beating No. 29 Dominika Cibulkova 6-1, 6-3.
"I have to be ready," Suarez Navarro said about facing Keys, "and I think I am ready."
Suarez Navarro often let the 22nd-seeded Sharapova create her own problems.
Sharapova had all sorts of trouble serving, repeatedly catching wayward ball tosses and committing eight double-faults. She was broken in six of her 10 service games.
During lengthy exchanges from the baseline, Sharapova repeatedly blinked first, although a couple of times the righty managed to switch her racket to her left hand for a desperation shot to extend a point.
While both women finished with 15 winners, Sharapova had nearly twice as many unforced errors as Suarez Navarro, 38-20.
"I didn't take care of the chances that I had. By 'chances,' I mean the balls that were a little bit shorter. I hesitated to move forward," Sharapova said. "The balls where I did attack, I made unforced errors, especially on that inside-out forehand today."
Since her championship, Sharapova has only once made it to the quarter-finals at the U.S. Open — in 2012, when she lost in the semifinals. Since then, the best she's done are fourth-round exits in 2014, 2017 and 2018.