US Open | Federer suffers surprise loss
Roger Federer suffered his earliest loss at the US Open when John Millman pulled off the shock result of the week — if not the tournament — with his 3-6 7-5 7-6(7) 7-6(3) victory bearing in mind the pair are separated by 53 places on the ranking list.
Federer, at 37 and already a five-time champion at Flushing Meadows, was not at his best and was allegedly suffering from the humid conditions which have returned to New York.
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 good day John Millman
“I just thought it was very hot tonight. Was just one of those nights where I guess I felt I couldn’t get air. There was no circulation at all,” he revealed.
“I just struggled in the conditions. It’s one of the first times it’s happened to me.
“It’s uncomfortable. Clearly just kept 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. He maybe comes from one of the most humid places on earth, Brisbane!”
The Swiss icon was chasing his 21st title at grand slam level and ironically perhaps, his loss was not to one of the up-and-coming Next Gen players, but a 29-year-old who turned professional in 2008 and could best be described as one of the journeymen of the tour.
Federer finished with 77 unforced errors and 10 double faults but had a host of chances to wrap up proceedings in straight sets if only he hadn’t wasted the set points he had in the second and third sets, and allowed a 4-2 lead in the fourth to evaporate.
“I knew I was in for a tough one. Maybe when you feel like that, as well, you start missing chances, and I had those,” Federer added. “That was disappointing. I was just happy that the match was over.”
He then went on to criticise the newly installed roof which he maintained prevented the air from circulating.
“I do believe since the roof is on that there is no air circulation in the stadium. I think just that makes it a totally different US Open. Plus conditions maybe were playing slower this year on top of it. You have soaking wet pants, soaking wet everything.
“It was just tough,” the world No.2 and second seed said, adding: “I thought John played a great match in difficult conditions.”
Needless to say, Milman was delighted at his victory, the best of his career.
“I felt a little bit guilty today because he didn’t have his best day today that’s for sure,” said Millman, ranked 55th in the world.
“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 good day.”
Millman, in the last 16 of a Grand Slam for the first time, admitted being a bit overawed in the first set and the intimidating atmosphere in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“It was a slightly intimidating environment,” he said. “At the start I don’t think I was playing so well. But as the match went on, I felt more comfortable, felt pretty good.
“I’ve always done a good job of not letting the moment get the better of me.”
The Aussie’s career had been blighted by a series of injuries and three surgeries but he has the confidence to believe he could go all the way to become the first Australian to win a Grand Slam since Lleyton Hewitt’s 2003 Wimbledon success.
His next hurdle is Novak Djokovic who is chasing his 14th grand slam title and made light work of Joao Sousa by defeating the Brazilian 6-3 6-4 6-3.
“I’ll have to improve a lot on the last time I played him,” Millman admitted. “He’s an incredible player and he’s in really good form now, too. But why not? I think it’s a disservice to who I am if I go out there and don’t have that belief.”
Meanwhile Kei Nishikori, cruised into the quarter-finals with a solid 6-3 6-2 7-5 win over Philipp Kohlschreiber and if he is to repeat his final appearance of 2014, he will have to get past the man who beat him then, Marin Cilic who in turn made the last eight after ousting David Goffin 7-6(6) 6-2 6-4.
The top Japanese player is making good progress having been sidelined for six months with a wrist injury which eventually required surgery preventing him from making an appearance at last year’s US Open. A former world No.4, he has seemingly regained his fitness having come through the field dropping just one set.
He had little trouble with Kohlschreiber though he did falter when serving for the match at 5-4 in the third.
“That was the toughest moment in the match, serving for the match at 5-4 — had a 30-0 lead and he came back really strong,” Nishikori said. “It was a hard situation but I did refocus again after the service break and really played great in the last two games.”