Roger Federer lost in straight sets at the U.S. Open for the first time since 2002. (Darron Cummings/AP)
A Spaniard knocked Roger Federer out of the U.S. Open, but it wasn't the one we expected. With the possibility of a first-time U.S Open clash against Rafael Nadal looming, an error-prone Federer lost to 22nd-ranked Tommy Robredo, 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-4 in the fourth round on Monday.
The match, originally scheduled on Arthur Ashe Stadium, was moved to Louis Armstrong Stadium after a near-five-hour rain delay forced the USTA to reshuffle the schedule. It was a rare sight to see Federer play somewhere other than the No. 1 show court at any stadium, and it was unusual, too, to see him spray loose unforced errors off his forehand. Though he hit more winners than unforced errors (45-43), complete futility on break points doomed the 17-time major champion.
Federer's post-match press conference:
• The last time Federer lost as early as the fourth round at the U.S. Open was 2003, when he lost to David Nalbandian.
• This was Robredo's first career win over Federer. The 31-year-old came into the match 0-10.
• Federer went 2-for-16 on break points and didn't break Robredo after the first set. Robredo saved all 12 break points he faced in the second and third sets combined.
• Federer will finish the season without reaching a Slam final for the first time since 2002.
• Federer played on Louis Armstrong Stadium for the first time since 2006. The last time he lost on that court was in his U.S. Open debut, in 2000, against Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero.
• This was Federer's first straight-set loss at the U.S. Open since 2002, when he lost to Max Mirnyi 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-4 in the fourth round.
• Of his 12 losses this year, six have come to players ranked outside the top 10.
• Despite the loss, Federer will actually climb a spot in the rankings, to No. 6.
Federer on the late court change: "I was prepared for it. I was even happy about it. I thought it was going to be a great atmosphere that I could take advantage of maybe the fact that people were really going to get behind me, make it a great atmosphere. But unfortunately, I didn't show the game that they could really get into it and excited about. That's how it goes sometimes."
Federer's assessment of the match: "I kind of feel like I beat myself, without taking any credit away from Tommy. Clearly he was making sure he was making many balls. It was up to me to make the difference and I couldn't. I kind of self‑destructed, which is very disappointing, especially on a quicker court."
Federer on the lost opportunity of potentially playing Nadal in the quarterfinals: "It would have been a quarters, not a final. Not that much of a disappointment at the end of the day. If I'm playing like this, I'm not going to beat Rafa, or [Philipp] Kohlschreiber [Nadal's fourth-round opponent], for that matter."
Federer on what's next: "I've definitely got to go back to work and come back stronger, get rid of this loss now as quick as I can, forget about it, because that's not how I want to play from here on. I want to play better. I know I can. I showed it the last few weeks, that there is that [higher] level. So today was pretty frustrating."
Robredo on the significance of the victory: "Roger for the moment is the best player of all time. To beat him in a huge stadium like the U.S. Open and in a Grand Slam, a match of [best of] five sets, it's like a dream."
Robredo, who has won two titles this year, on regaining his form after missing five months last year with a leg injury: "It's an amazing year, especially because one year ago I was [ranked] 100 something, trying to come back. I wasn't sure if my leg will be perfect or not. You have the doubts if your body's going to respond, and your tennis, if you're going to get the confidence back. ... I was worried because I didn't know if that will happen? I was working, working. I think that until Casablanca [a tournament in April], I wasn't sure. After there, when I win the tournament, I just realize that I could be able to just enjoy again and try to be back [near] the top [of the] rankings. And since then I'm just believing and believing and believing."
Nadal on having never played Federer at the U.S. Open: "To be honest, going to be great if we were able to play that final, because I felt that our rivalry for so many years we were able to play in all the best scenarios, stadiums, around the world. Played the rest. Three finals of the Grand Slams. So probably that deserves to have that match here in the US Open, too, the biggest court of the world. But didn't happen. That's don't mean cannot happen in the future. We'll see. Hopefully. But is true that we are getting older, so the chances are less today than five years ago."