Roger Federer failed to cope with stifling conditions at the US Open on Monday and suffered a shock 3-6 7-5 7-6(7) 7-6(3) defeat to unseeded Australian John Millman in the last 16. Second seed Federer, who had not dropped a set in his first three matches, was uncharacteristically sloppy, committing 77 unforced errors and 10 double faults while landing just 49 percent of his first serves. There was little sign of what was in store for the five-times champion when he took the first set with ease, before world No. 55 Millman turned the tables to win the second then held his nerve through two tiebreaks to secure the victory in three hours and 34 minutes.
While the temperature in New York hovered around 78 Fahrenheit (25C), Federer said high humidity was the problem at Arthur Ashe Stadium. “I just thought it was very hot tonight,” Federer said. “Was just one of those nights where I felt I couldn’t get air. There was no circulation at all. “It’s one of the first times it’s happened to me… John was able to deal with it better. He maybe comes from one of the most humid places on earth, Brisbane.
“Some days it’s just not the day where the body can cope with it.” Millman, who trained with Federer in Switzerland before the grass-court season, was in shock at having beaten one of his idols.
“I’m probably in a little bit of disbelief,” he said. “I have so much respect for Roger and everything he’s done for the game. “He’s a hero of mine. Today he was definitely not at his best but I’ll take it.”
Federer started well, racing through the first set and unsettling Millman by dropping the ball short. He looked to be cruising as he opened up a 5-3 lead in the second but squandered two set points when serving at 5-4 before making two unforced errors and a double fault that allowed Millman to draw level.
The 29-year-old Australian held serve and suddenly Federer found himself serving to force a tiebreak. He cracked, double faulting again and making two more unforced errors, as Millman roared back to level the match at 1-1. “I felt like a deer in the headlights to begin with, to be honest,” Millman added. “Roger had me on a string. He was manipulating me around the court.
“But I got out of a tough second set, really found my feet and started to be a little bit more aggressive.” After being caught out by the drop shot earlier in the match, Millman began to read it better and improved from a single net point won in the first set to 17 from a possible 30 by the end of the match.
Federer, who won five straight titles at Flushing Meadows between 2004 and 2008, continued to struggle with his serve, double faulting twice in a row in the final tiebreak and conceding the match with a forehand error. Next up for Millman is a quarter-final match-up against Novak Djokovic, and Federer said the sixth seed will have a fight on his hands. “I think (Millman has) got a great backhand… When you attack there in the wrong way, he will punish you every time for it,” said the Swiss.
“I think against Novak, he just has to bring it again, try to worry Novak, hope for another hot day maybe.”
Djokovic beats heat and Sousa to reach quarters
Novak Djokovic sweated his way to a 6-3 6-4 6-3 fourth-round win over Portugal’s Joao Sousa as the heat returned to the U.S. Open on Monday, setting up a potential quarter-final with second seed Roger Federer. Djokovic improved his perfect record in U.S. Open fourth round contests to 11-0, leaving it to Federer, who plays Australian John Millman in the late contest on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court, to give the fans a mouthwatering match-up.
A Federer versus Djokovic clash would provide the perfect contest to propel the US Open into the second week, with the two champions having claimed seven titles at Flushing Meadows between them. “The matches I’ve played against him (Federer) have shaped me into the player that I am today,” said Djokovic, who beat the Swiss at the Cincinnati final in the lead up to the US Open.
Sousa arrived at the season’s final Grand Slam in dreadful form, having lost his previous seven matches, but suddenly found his game on the hardcourts to knock out 12th seed Pablo Carreno Busta and number 17 seed Lucas Pouille en route to the last 16. The first Portuguese player to reach the fourth round at a Grand Slam, the 68th-ranked Sousa never threatened to progress any further as his magical US Open run came to an end.
The biggest concern for sixth-seeded Djokovic might well have been the conditions as the heat returned to New York after a few days of relief.
Through his opening round matches the Serb and his performances suffered under a blazing sun and, with temperatures once again nudging into the 90s Fahrenheit (32 Celsius), the extreme conditions again took a toll on 31-year-old.
He went off court two sets and 2-1 up for a medical evaluation. “I am 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,” said Djokovic. “Heat was the adversity today. I’ve experienced that in the first round. It’s tough.
“It’s not easy to play in these kind of conditions. At the same time, you can’t do anything but try to be tough and survive, you know, find a way to win.” The 13-times Grand Slam champion made easy work of the opening set, breaking Sousa twice — the second time to close out the set.
Things got tougher in the second as a sluggish Djokovic laboured before again clinching it with a break. As temperatures rose so did tempers, with both players engaging in animated arguments with chair umpire James Keothavong over points. Djokovic, however, was able to keep his cool just long enough to finish off Sousa with another late break.
Kei Nishikori outclasses Philipp Kohlschreiber to reach quarters
Kei Nishikori will hope to make another deep run at his most successful Grand Slam event after he outclassed Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3 6-2 7-5 to reach quarter-finals of the US Open on another blazingly hot day on Monday. The Japanese 21st seed, a finalist at Flushing Meadows in 2014 and a semi-finalist in 2016, fired 29 winners to end the run of Germany’s Kohlschreiber, who had beaten fourth seed Alexander Zverev in the previous round.
Nishikori appeared to be racing towards an easy win before Kohlschreiber unexpectedly broke the 28-year-old to level the third set at 5-5. But that only delayed the inevitable as Nishikori kept his focus to seal the win and extend his perfect record against the German to 3-0.
“(I was) really lucky to finish in three sets — it was really hot on the court,” a sweat-soaked Nishikori said in an on-court interview. “I think we both struggled a little bit with the heat.” Nishikori later told reporters that the brutal conditions made it difficult to keep his head in the match.
“It’s not easy with the heat. You know, I couldn’t think too much between the points. It’s not easy to focus (on) every point, you know. You lose some concentration,” he said. Kohlschreiber thought the heat — as well as Nishikori’s slick performance — made the match particularly challenging.
“He pushed, especially in my weaknesses, pretty good, you know, returning my second serve very aggressively, very deep,” Kohlschreiber told reporters. “He didn’t make many mistakes. He pushed me around. He was too much in control of the game.” Nishikori next faces either seventh-seeded Croat Marin Cilic, which would be a rematch of 2014 final or Belgian 10th seed David Goffin in the last eight.
Cilic topples Goffin to reach quarter-finals
Marin Cilic showed no ill effects from his grueling, late-night victory two nights ago as the Croatian seventh seed beat David Goffin 7-6(6) 6-2 6-4 on Monday to reach the US Open quarter-finals. Former champion Cilic, who rallied back from a two-set deficit to clinch a four-hour, third round match that ended after 2:00 a.m. local time, made a sluggish start against the 10th-seeded Goffin but had enough gas in the tank to advance.
Goffin, who was bidding to become the first Belgian man to reach the US Open quarter-finals, enjoyed a nice start with a break of serve and grabbed a 5-3 edge before moving within two points of taking the first set. But Cilic suddenly rose to the occasion and deployed his ballistic forehand to get back on serve at 5-5 before securing the opener after an error-filled tiebreak by both players.
From there, the Australian Open runner-up settled into a groove and pulled away from Goffin, who was limited by a sore shoulder and unable to take advantage of an uneven serving display from Cilic. “I started a little bit slower and he was playing good in the beginning and when he was serving in the first set at 5-4 it was a crucial break for me to get back in the game,” said Cilic, who made just 46 percent of his first serves.
“After the first set it felt like he slowed down his first serve and at the end, he told he’s got some problems with his shoulder so it was a little but unfortunate for him and he was not playing the best the last two sets but I kept my rhythm and played well.” Cilic broke Goffin in the fifth game of the third set to pull ahead and then held serve the rest of the way before sealing the deal on his third match point with a crosscourt forehand.
The win puts Cilic into the quarter-finals of the year’s final Grand Slam for the fifth time. Next up for Cilic is a 2014 U.S. Open final rematch with Japan’s Kei Nishikori, the 21st seed, who beat German Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3 6-2 7-5 earlier on Monday.