Roger Federer applauds the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd as he leaves after losing to Grigor Dimitrov in the quarterfinals of the US Open (PA Sports)
Roger Federer ‘disappointed’ after back injury hampers him in US Open defeat to Dimitrov: ‘I fought with what I had’.
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A disappointed Roger Federer lamented a ‘missed opportunity’ after losing to Grigor Dimitrov in five sets in the US Open quarterfinals.
Federer had a perfect 7-0 record vs Dimitrov coming into the match and was looking to capitalize on the opportunity opened up by Novak Djokovic’s earlier defeat at the final major of the year.
Defending champion Djokovic lost to 2016 US Open champion Stan Wawrinka in the fourth round, retiring in the third set due to a shoulder issue. Wawrinka went on to lose in four sets to Daniil Medvedev, who awaited the winner of Federer-Dimitrov in the semifinals.
Federer reacts during his defeat to Dimitrov (PA Sports)
It looked like things were lining up for Federer to reach the US Open final for just the third time since winning the title five years in a row between 2003-8 – and possibly even for a first meeting between Federer and long-time rival Rafael Nadal in New York, at the only major where they have yet to play.
If Federer had been able to beat Dimitrov to reach the semifinals, he would have had two rest days to address the injury issue before facing Medvedev on Friday.
Asked afterwards how he was feeling, Federer said: ‘Just low.
‘Just disappointed it’s over because I did feel like I was actually playing really well after a couple of rocky starts.
‘It’s just a missed opportunity to some extent that you’re in the lead, you can get through, you have two days off after. It was looking good.’
The third seed had lost early to Andrey Rublev at the Cincinnati Masters, the only tournament he played in between failing to convert two match points against Djokovic in the Wimbledon final and the US Open, and lost the opening sets in both of his first two matches in New York before coming back to win in four against Sumit Nagal and Damir Dzumhur. But he appeared to have put those ‘rocky’ starts behind him in the third and fourth rounds, dropping a total of nine games against Dan Evans and David Goffin combined.
Dimitrov, who has been ranked as high as world no. 3 in the past but whose career has never quite lived up to its early promise, did not seem like a dangerous opponent for Federer, primarily because of his 0-7 record against the 20-time Grand Slam champion, but also because he came into the US Open ranked world no. 78 after a dire season which has seen him compile a 13-15 win-loss record and lose seven of his last eight matches before New York.
Federer congratulates Dimitrov after the match (PA Sports)
The Bulgarian also hadn’t faced a seeded player on his way to the quarterfinals, benefiting from a second-round walkover from 12th seed Borna Coric and going on to face Kamil Majchrzak and Alex de Minaur, and was not accompanied by his coaches, ex-players Radek Stepanek and Andre Agassi.
Federer led by two sets to one and had three points to break Dimitrov back as he served for the fourth set, but was unable to convert.
The Swiss star took a medical time-out for an upper-body issue before the fifth set and went on to lose it rather tamely, making 13 unforced errors and dropping serve twice as he won only 13 points.
‘Well, I just needed some treatment on my upper – what is it – back, neck. Just needed to try to loosen it up, crack it and see if it was going to be better,’ Federer said afterwards.
‘But this is Grigor’s moment and not my body’s moment, so… It’s okay.’
Federer clarified that the injury had only come on the day of the match and downplayed its significance in the shock result.
‘Had a little bit this afternoon. That’s it. I was able to play. It’s okay. It’s how it goes. I tried my best. By far not too bad to give up or anything,’ Federer said.
‘Grigor was able to put me away. I fought with what I had. That’s it. So it’s okay.’
Federer has now failed to make the semifinals at four of the past six Grand Slams, but refused to be drawn into speculating about how many more opportunities he will have to claim one of the sport’s biggest titles at the age of 38.
‘I think still it’s been a positive season. Disappointing now, but I’ll get back up, I’ll be all right,’ he said.
As Dimitrov moves on to face Medvedev in Friday’s semifinals, Federer will rest and take time with his family ahead of the next event on his calendar, the Laver Cup exhibition which takes place on 20-22 September in Geneva.