Sep 12 2019

New order: Federer back in the pack

Roger Federer has finished his grand slam season without a finals appearance for the first time since 2002, humbled in straight sets in the fourth round of the US Open by 19th seed Tommy Robredo.

Federer aborted a recent experiment with a new racquet, and has struggled with a bad back, but it is increasingly hard to imagine this alarm will be false.

The evidence is mounting. It was Federer’s earliest US Open exit since before he won the first of his five titles in 2004. Combined with his shock second-round Wimbledon loss – his first pair of consecutive losses before the quarter-final stage of a major since 2003.

The seventh seed’s first failure against Robredo after 10 consecutive wins, coming soon after three losses to players ranked outside the top 50. And then there was the manner of his exit: not just how many errors, but by how much he was missing: plenty.

”Confidence does all these things. It takes care of all the things you don’t usually think about,” the 17-time grand slam man said after faltering 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, 6-4. ”But I just think it’s been a difficult last three months.”

In, clearly, an altered world. One where opponents believe now. Sniff a vulnerability. Exploit it.

”Obviously Roger, when he was No.1, to the Roger right now, he’s not maybe with the same confidence,” said Robredo. ”Obviously he’s the same player and he plays unbelievable, but I knew that if right now I had a little bit more chances, maybe he will have a little bit of doubt.”

While Robredo said the sole difference was Federer’s inability to convert more than two of his 16 break points, compared with the Spaniard’s four from seven, the setting was unfamiliar too. Some schedule juggling on the second heavily rain-disrupted day at Flushing Meadows meant that Federer played not on his regular centre court home, but on Louis Armstrong Stadium, for the first time since 2006.

”I kind of feel like I beat myself … without taking any credit away from Tommy,” Federer said. ”It was up to me to make the difference and I couldn’t. I kind of self-destructed. I’ve definitely got to go back to work and come back stronger.”

As Robredo celebrated, Federer departed with his head down. Stunned, probably, like everyone. Still going, but backwards. Painful viewing for Fedophiles everywhere.

So much, then, for the first Federer v Rafael Nadal match at Flushing Meadows. Instead, that quarter-final will feature Robredo v Nadal – who is yet to drop serve in four rounds, or lose on hardcourts in 19 matches this year – and sweated past Philipp Kohlschreiber after dropping the first set.

A third Spaniard, David Ferrer, will meet France’s Richard Gasquet, who won in five marathon sets against Canadian Milos Raonic.

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