New York City, USA : 20-time Grand Slam singles champion Roger Federer was stunned by unheralded Australian John Millman 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (3) in the fourth round of the U.S. Open at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, New York City on Monday.
The match, starting on Monday and ending well past midnight, saw the tennis legend fall to the 55th ranked Millman.
Millman will take on 13-time Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals after the 6th seeded Serbian sailed past Joao Sousa of Portugal 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.
Federer was 40-0 at the U.S. Open against players ranked outside the top 50. Millman was ranked 55th.
Millman was 0-10 in his career against top-10 players. Federer was ranked No. 2.
And Federer, a five-time U.S. Open champion, had lost before the quarterfinals only once at the Open in the past 14 years.
Several hours earlier, Novak Djokovic had won his fourth-round match and in the minutes after his victory, he was already being asked about a possible blockbuster quarterfinal matchup against Federer.
But Federer’s play Monday was as sluggish as the air in Ashe Stadium, and it will be Millman facing Djokovic in the quarterfinals after a 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (3) victory. The match ended shortly before 1 a.m. Eastern on Tuesday.
“He’s been a hero of mine,” Millman said of Federer in an on-court interview. “Today he was definitely not at his best, but I’ll take it.”
Federer’s serve, normally a reliable weapon, deserted him. He had 10 double faults, including two in the fourth-set tiebreaker. He got only 49 percent of his first serves in, including an abysmal 31 percent in the second set that turned the match around. He won only 47 percent of his second-serve points.
Federer served for the second set, but was broken. He was ahead in the third-set tiebreaker, and lost it. He had 77 unforced errors, the last a forehand that went long on match point.
Millman countered with 47 winners and 28 unforced errors, and did not falter after going down a break at 2-4 in the fourth set. He broke Federer in the next game.
“One thing I can control is the fight in me,” Millman said.
As the match wore on, the 37-year-old Federer seemed to be weighed down by the heat and humidity. He did not move with his customary grace, and his shots did not land with their customary precision.
It all added up to his earliest loss in a major tournament since a third-round loss at the 2015 Australian Open.
“Was just one of those nights where I guess I felt I couldn’t get air,” Federer said. “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.”
Asked what was off with his serve, he simply said, “It was hot.”
“When you feel like that,” he added, “everything is off.”
While Federer struggled, Millman said he “felt very comfortable as the match went on.”
“I can’t really remember a time when I was nervous or letting the moment get the better of me,” he added.
Asked whether he believed he could beat Djokovic and reach a semifinal, Millman said: “Why not? I think it’s a disservice to who I am if I go out there and don’t have that belief.”
Federer has not won the U.S. Open since 2008, the last in a run of five straight Open titles. He had said before this tournament began that winning the U.S. Open again was a “bigger priority” than it had been in 2017, when he returned from a long injury layoff to win the Australian Open and Wimbledon. He won the Australian Open again in January. But after skipping the French Open, he lost in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, in five sets to Kevin Anderson.