Federer 'self-destructed' in loss to Robredo at U.S. Open

Tuesday September 3rd, 2013

Five-time U.S. Open champ Roger Federer lost to Tommy Robredo for the first time in 11 meetings.
Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty Images

NEW YORK -- Five thoughts from Tommy Robredo's 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-4 victory over five-time champion Roger Federer in the fourth round of the U.S. Open on Monday:

A dubious career first for Federer. Federer's form coming into the U.S. Open was obviously the worst it had been in a decade. His summer results were dismal in the extreme, leading to a drop to No. 7 in the rankings. But he switched back to his smaller racket, he had the benefit of a day off between matches and he had wild crowd support here. And he looked quite sharp in his first three matches.

If you had said that the 32-year-old Federer wouldn't have escaped his quarter of the draw, most people would have nodded in agreement. But if a Spaniard was going to ruin his run, you would have thought it was going to be Rafael Nadal, in the longtime rivals' first match at the U.S. Open (which could have happened in the quarterfinals), not the 19th-seeded Robredo, who had never defeated Federer in 10 meetings.

A diminished Federer. After a decade of brilliance, Federer looks like a less player, Father Time applying his sleeper hold. He was, visibly, a step slow. (This despite asserting that his back no longer is a concern.) He made a lot of errors (43 in all), many of them routine. He converted only 2-of-16 break points, including 0-for-6 in each of the last two sets. There were also some strange strategic whiffs. Deep in the first-set tiebreak, for instance, he made the curious decision to serve and volley.

"I kind of feel like I beat myself, without taking any credit away from Tommy," Federer said. "Clearly he was making sure he was making many balls. It was up to me to make the difference and I couldn't."

NGUYEN: Highlights, stats, Twitter reaction to Federer's loss

Tommy Robredo advanced to the U.S. Open quarterfinals for the first time.
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

• 'I kind of self-destructed': There was no shame in Federer's loss to Andy Murray in the Australian Open semifinals, a five-set match that was excellent at times. His straight-set loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the French Open quarterfinals stung, but it came on clay, his weakest surface, against a powerful French player. The second-round loss to Sergiy Stakhovsky at Wimbledon was a shocker, but it's grass and all the quirks that go with it.

This? Robredo, 31, is only a year younger than Federer, so it's not as though the Swiss lost to young gun. For all of Robredo's virtues, it's not as though he hit through Federer. He simply got back a lot of balls and Federer missed his targets. You wish there were extenuating circumstances. (Federer said playing on Louis Armstrong Stadium for the first time since 2006, after a rain delay prompted a court change, was not an issue.) But this was just Federer looking decidedly mortal against a player he spent years beating as a matter of ritual.

"I kind of self-destructed, which is very disappointing, especially on a quicker court," Federer said. "I just couldn't do it. It was a frustrating performance."

Credit Robredo for a career revival. The veteran advanced to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open for the first time in 12 appearances. He also made the French Open quarterfinals this year. A year ago at this time, Robredo was ranked No. 178 after missing five months with a leg injury. But the former world No. 5 has won two titles in 2013 and climbed back to No. 22.

"Roger for the moment is the best player of all time," Robredo said. "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."

What now for the 17-time major champion? While there are still several events left this year, Federer's Grand Slam season is now over. It will be interesting to see where he goes from here. Does he continue tinkering with his racket? Does he rest his back and regroup physically? Does he make a coaching change? Does he keep playing, hoping that a confidence upgrade follows? Whatever, unless you're another ATP player, it's no fun seeing Federer in this diminished state. It seldom ends gracefully. Even for the most graceful player the sport has known

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