ROGER Federer suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter-finals at the US Open.
The 20-time grand slam winner had looked destined for a box-office final against Rafael Nadal in what would have been the great rivals’ first meeting at Flushing Meadows.
But Bulgarian, Dimitrov tore up that script with a first-ever win over the Swiss, who needed a medical time-out and looked out of sorts throughout a five-set defeat.
After all, Dimitrov had not beaten Federer in any of their previous seven matches, and had taken only two sets off him.
The majority of those defeats came when the Bulgarian was a constant in the top 10, peaking as high as world number three. And coming into New York he had slumped to a lowly 78.
But all was clearly not well with Federer, who hit an unprecedented 60 unforced errors.
He had been flexing his racket arm during the fourth set, and in a rare occurrence the 38-year-old took a lengthy break from court for treatment before the start of the decider. Dimitrov filled the time doing press-ups.
Two breaks of the Federer serve later, Dimitrov was 4-0 up and in unchartered territory.
A Federer hold to 15 momentarily stopped the bleeding, until Dimitrov responded in kind.
Federer made Dimitrov serve out the match, and the 28-year-old did so to love to seal the biggest win of his career, 3-6 6-4 3-6 6-4 6-2.
‘It’s been a while since I’ve been on this court so I was nervous in the first set and he served really well,’ said Dimitrov.
‘I think after the second set I felt I was getting a good stride on my shots.
‘We had a really long game in the fourth set and I wanted to make him stay on court for long as possible.
‘For sure he was not at his best at the end. It’s the best of five and anything can happen.’
With Novak Djokovic out, Federer knew he had possibly the best chance he will get to win major title number 21.
Little wonder, then, that he cut a disconsolate figure afterwards, admitting his back was playing up.
‘I just feel low,’ he said. ‘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.’