Seven-time champion and third seed suffered a surprising defeat at the Cincinnati Masters and was knocked out 6-3 6-4 in less than an hour by Andrey Rublev, ranked 70, in the third round who now goes on to face his Russian compatriot Daniil Medvedev, the 6-2 6-1 conqueror of Jan-Lennard Struff, for a place in the semis.
Defense, offense, serving well. Didn't give me anything. He was everywhere. So it was tough for me, but excellent match by him. I was impressed Roger Federer
The loss is major blip in his preparations for the US Open which starts August 29 for he will only have played two matches on the hardcourts in what was his first tournament since losing the Wimbledon final.
The 21-year-old Russian qualifier was amazed at defeating the 20-time Grand Slam champion in 61 minutes – the quickest loss for the 38-year-old Swiss since 2003 in Sydney when he fell after 54 minutes. He was in fact playing the great Swiss for the first time.
Nevertheless, Federer remains confident declaring: “It’s very important for me that I’m injury-free and I’m feeling good. Regardless of what the outcome of this week, I’m happy I came here, had good practice sessions.
“I had two matches here and hoped it would have gone better – the plan is always not to lose first round. The plan is always not to lose second round.”
Federer said that discussion with his team will determine his schedule for the rest of this week and next, with the final Grand Slam of the season starting a week from Monday.
“I’ll have a few more days off now, I’m sure, before the US Open,” he said. “I worked very hard coming into Cincinnati in that little season we had since Wimbledon.
“I’m going to train – exactly what I need to do for the Open – and that’s it. It’s fairly simple, keep it simple, but I’ve got to work hard.”
Reflecting on the match, he added: “I struggled on my serve early on. Got broken the first service games, and there you have it. That sort of set the tone for the match maybe a little bit.
“But the combination was tough: he was playing well. I was maybe struggling especially on the offensive. I didn’t think I was feeling the ball badly.
“He was super clean,” Federer continued. “Defense, offense, serving well. Didn’t give me anything. He was everywhere. So it was tough for me, but excellent match by him. I was impressed.”
Rublev, who missed months last season with injury, couldn’t quite believe his success. “It’s an amazing feeling when you play such a legend as Roger,” he said. “At least 99 percent of the crowd was supporting him.
“Today I was just trying to do my best. I told myself I need to play every point to the end. No matter what the situation, I kept fighting.”
Meanwhile Novak Djokovic has had a major stumbling block cleared from his path as the pair were due to meet in the semi-finals.
With the path towards a successful defence of his title, the Serbian world number one triumphed comfortably over Pablo Carreno-Busta 6-3 6-4 in 90-minutes to take his place in the quarter-finals.
There he will continue his quest by taking on France’s Lucas Pouille, a 6-7(3) 6-4 6-2 winner over Russian Karen Khachanov.
“I’m very pleased today. I beat a top quality player,” Djokovic said. “It was straight sets but the score doesn’t indicate how tough it was.
“He had break points in both sets and I got out of trouble with some good serves. Overall, it was a really good match.”
In other action Lucas Pouille beat eighth seed Karen Khachanov 6-7(3) 6-4, 6-2.
Roberto Bautista Agut defeated Miomir Kecmanovic 6-1 6-2, Richard Gasquet ousted Diego Schwartzman 7-6(6) 6-3, Yoshihito Nishioka beat Alex De Minaur 7-5 6-4 and David Goffin took out Adrian Mannarino 7-6(6) 6-2.
In the doubles event the Murray brothers have won through and will now face each other for a place in the semi-finals.
Andy and partner Feliciano Lopez beat Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock 2-6 6-3 10-7 to reach the last eight while his brother Jamie, in partnership with fellow Brit Neal Skupski, beat the French pair of Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-3 6-3.