Federer floored; Suarez Navarro gets birthday win

JAW-DROPPING::Swiss second seed Roger Federer — in many eyes the greatest male player of all time — committed 77 unforced errors and 10 double faults

Reuters, NEW YORK

Wed, Sep 05, 2018 - Page 16

Heat, age and a relentless John Millman on Monday combined in a perfect storm to drive Roger Federer to the US Open exit, leaving the winner of a record 20 Grand Slam titles looking every bit the 37-year-old that he is.

More shocking than his departure was the manner of the 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (3) loss to the Australian, with Federer simply wilting in the suffocating humidity and exiting a Grand Slam before the quarter-finals for just the fifth time since 2004.

“I just thought it was very hot tonight,” Federer said after his fourth-round defeat. “It was just one of those nights where I guess I felt I couldn’t get air.”

“It’s one of the first times it’s happened to me,” he added.

The numbers were damning with the Swiss second seed, in many eyes the greatest male player of all time, committing a shocking 77 unforced errors and 10 double faults, including two in the final tie-break.

Never before had the 55th ranked Millman beaten a top 10 player and never before at the US Open had Federer lost to someone ranked outside the top 50, previously posting a 40-0 record in such matches at Flushing Meadows.

Both streaks came to a jaw-dropping end in front of stunned crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium as the five-time champion made his earliest departure from the year’s final Grand Slam since a fourth-round loss to Tommy Robredo in 2013.

“When you feel like that, everything is off,” Federer said. “But, look, I’ve trained in tougher conditions. I’ve played in the daytime, you know, at 120°C. Some days it’s just not the day where the body can cope with it.”

For years fans and pundits have been watching for signs of decay in Federer’s game and there were hints of fading greatness to be seen on a sweltering Monday.

There was no surrender — he wrestled with Millman through two tie-breaks — but in the end Federer simply ran out of energy and ideas.

While Federer suffered in the oppressive conditions, 29-year-old Millman, who lives and trains in the heat and humidity of Brisbane, looked perfectly at home.

“John was able to deal with it better,” Federer said. “He maybe comes from one of the most humid places on earth, Brisbane.

“I knew I was in for a tough one,” he added. “Maybe when you feel like that, as well, you start missing chances and I had those.”

Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro celebrated her 30th birthday in style by beating Russia’s Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-3 to book her place in the quarter-finals.

Sharapova, the 2006 champion, had never lost a night session match in New York prior to her first Grand Slam meeting with Suarez Navarro.

“Thank you so much, guys,” Suarez Navarro said courtside after being wished happy birthday by the crowd. “It’s the first time this year I’ve played at night. I’m very happy, because I played a good match.”

Five-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova paid the price for 38 unforced errors and won less than half of her first serve points while committing eight double faults.

“I didn’t take care of the chances that I had,” she said. “I hesitated to move forward. The balls where I did attack, I made unforced errors, especially on that inside-out forehand today.”

With her most potent weapon not firing, Sharapova succumbed in one hour, 31 minutes under the floodlights at Arthur Ashe Stadium, allowing 30th seed Suarez Navarro to record just her second career victory over the Russian in six attempts.

“Maria is a really good player. I mean, she’s one of the best. I’m happy to beat her tonight,” Suarez Navarro said.

“Sometimes on this court, it is easy to [get confused],” she added. “Well, the crowd, the music, it’s crazy. It’s a really good show, but for the players sometimes it’s tough, especially for me. I just tried to be focused. I tried to think about not too much things, just my work, my job. Today it worked.”

In the third round of the women’s doubles, Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus fell to a 7-5, 6-4 defeat to seventh seeds Elise Mertens of Belgium and Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands.