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Roger Federer upset by John Millman at U.S. Open

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NEW YORK (AP) — Roger Federer served poorly. He volleyed poorly. Closed out sets poorly, too. And now he’s gone, beaten at the U.S. Open by an opponent ranked outside the top 50 for the first time in his illustrious career.

Looking slow and tired on a sweltering night in Arthur Ashe Stadium, the No. 2-seeded Federer double-faulted 10 times, failed to convert a trio of set points and lost 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (3) in the fourth round to John Millman in a match that began Monday and concluded at nearly 1 a.m. on Tuesday.

To Federer, it was all about the heat and the humidity. With the temperature in the 80s, even with the sun down, and the humidity at about 75 percent, he was unable to summon his usual verve.

“Was just one of those nights where, I guess, I felt I couldn’t get air. There was no circulation at all. I don’t know, for some reason I just struggled in the conditions tonight. It’s one of the first times it’s happened to me,” the 37-year-old Federer said. “It’s uncomfortable. Clearly just keep on sweating more and more and more and more as the match goes on. You lose energy as it goes by. But John was able to deal with it better.”

It’s only the second time in Federer’s past 14 appearances at the U.S. Open that he’s lost before the quarterfinals. He is, after all, a five-time champion at the tournament, part of his men’s-record haul of 20 Grand Slam titles.

“In all honesty, Roger’s a hero of mine. I look up to him,” said Millman, an Australian who is 29. “I felt a little bit guilty today, because he didn’t have his best day, and that’s for sure. I know that. I’m very aware he didn’t have a great day in the office. Probably, to beat him, I needed him to have an off-day and I needed to have a decent, good day.”

So much for that highly anticipated matchup between Federer and 13-time major champion Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals. Instead, it’ll be the 55th-ranked Millman, who had never made it past the third round at a Slam until last week, taking on No. 6 seed Djokovic.

Hours before, Djokovic left the court for a medical timeout — the second time during the tournament he’s sought help from a doctor because of harsh weather — during what would become an otherwise straightforward 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory over 68th-ranked Joao Sousa of Portugal.

“I’m not 21 anymore. That was 10 years ago. I still don’t feel old. But at the same time, there is a little biological clock that is not really working in your favor,” Djokovic said. “Sometimes, you just have to survive.”

He reached the quarterfinals for an 11th consecutive appearance in New York as he bids for a third U.S. Open championship and 14th Grand Slam trophy.

The other quarterfinal on the bottom half of the draw will be a rematch of the 2014 U.S. Open final: No. 7 Marin Cilic against No. 21 Kei Nishikori.

Millman was adamant he would not be intimidated by Federer, and perhaps was helped by having spent time practicing together a few months ago ahead of the grass-court portion of this season.

“I love his intensity,” Federer said.

Still, this was a stunner. Not simply because Federer lost — he entered the day 28-0 at the U.S. Open, and 127-1 in all Grand Slam matches, against foes below No. 50 in the ATP rankings — but how he lost. Start with this: Federer held two set points while serving for the second at 5-4, 40-15 and did not pull through. Millman knew that was the turning point.

“At the start, I don’t think I was playing so well,” said Millman, who said he was sweating so much he had a hard time holding onto his racket. “But, yeah, as the match went on, I felt more comfortable, felt pretty good.”

Then Federer had a set point in the third at 6-5 in the tiebreaker, but again was stymied.

In the fourth set, he went up a break at 4-2, yelling “Come on!” and getting all of those rowdy spectators in their “RF” gear on their feet, prompting the chair umpire to repeatedly plead for silence. But Federer uncharacteristically got broken right back with a sloppy game, most egregiously when he slapped what should have been an easy putaway into the net.

And then there was his serve. He put only 49 percent of his first serves in play, including a hard-to-believe 31 percent in the second set. This is a guy whose combination of precision and power on that stroke is considered as good as anyone’s ever.

In the final tiebreaker, he double-faulted twice in a row. The first obvious signs of trouble for Federer came far earlier, in the second game of the second set. He started that 15-minute struggle by missing 18 of his initial 20 first serves. While he eventually held there, he needed to save seven break points along the way. It was clear Federer was not at his best.

Millman’s big rips on groundstrokes didn’t help matters. Nor did his steeliness despite not being all that familiar with this sort of success or setting. This is a guy who had never managed to beat a top-10 player, let alone a man who has spent more weeks at No. 1 in the ATP rankings than anyone else.

As the unforced errors mounted — Federer would finish with 77, compared to Millman’s 28 — Federer’s wife, Mirka, couldn’t bear to look, placing her forehead on her hands in the guest box in the stands.

Federer hung his head at a changeover, a little black fan pointed right at his face, but nothing seemed to make him feel like himself.

“When you feel like that,” Federer said, “everything is off.”

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Roger Federer rolls at U.S. Open with shot of the tournament around net

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NEW YORK — Roger Federer hit a shot so unbelievable that his U.S. Open opponent wanted to Instagram it.

The highlight of Federer’s 6-4, 6-1, 7-5 win over Nick Kyrgios in the third round was a third-set flick around the side net post that topped out at about a foot off the ground.

The winner caused the talented-but-unpredictable Aussie Kyrgios to raise his eyebrows, pop his eyes and drop his jaw.

“I was trying to tell him that the shot wasn’t that good,” Kyrgios said later, smiling. “I’m probably going to place it on Instagram.”

Federer, on course for a quarterfinal showdown with Novak Djokovic, put it among the most spectacular shots of his career.

“Yeah, I mean, it was definitely one of the more unique ones,” he said. “You don’t get an opportunity to hit around the net post very often, because in practice, you — I mean, you can’t really train them.”

The other memorable ones? Federer reeled them off.

“I definitely think it was a special one, no doubt about it,” Federer said of the Kyrgios shot. “I do believe the smash off the smash against Roddick was special just because it was way back in the court, as well. And then there was one more in Dubai against Agassi on break point. I was able to flick a ball. I still don’t know how I did it today. It went for a lob over him. I don’t know. It was just a massive point on top of it, and it was against Andre. And then the one through the legs here against Novak, just because of the magnitude of the shot, as well. I think it was 6-5, love-30. It was just also a big-time moment in the game, which obviously always matters, as well.”

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Roger Federer clarifies retirement joke at U.S. Open

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NEW YORK (AP) — Roger Federer sent something of a shock wave through the tennis world with what he thought was an obvious joke after improving to 18-0 in first-round matches at the U.S. Open.

“I’m happy I never stumbled at the first hurdle,” Federer said during his on-court interview Tuesday night. “Almost time to retire — but not yet.”

Some folks’ reaction might best be summed up as: Wait. WHAT?!

So the 37-year-old Federer was asked at his news conference to clarify his comment after the 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 victory over 117th-ranked Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Why did Federer mention retirement?

Turned out it was completely harmless.

“That was meaning, like, ‘I never lost a first-round match here at the Open. I won all my 18. You don’t want that (loss) to happen next year.’ I said, ‘Maybe I could retire now, because I protect my 18 first-round wins here.’ That’s what I meant with it,” he said. “It’s a total joke, yes.”

And, then, addressing all of the members of the media in the room, just to make absolutely sure everyone understood what he’d been thinking, Federer added with a smile: “So please don’t read into it. Don’t even write that word.”

For years, actually, Federer has dealt with questions about when he might retire. In part, that’s because elite tennis players often used to become not-so-elite by the time they passed the age of 30.

If anything, he’s looked as good as ever over the past two seasons, adding three Grand Slam titles in that span to raise his men’s record to 20.

Against Nishioka, Federer delivered 14 aces and never was in any trouble.

Federer saved the first eight break points he faced before finally faltering by pushing a forehand long on the ninth, losing serve for the only time while trying to close out the match at 5-2 in the third set. By then, the match was 1 hour, 45 minutes old — and it would last another seven minutes.

“Thankfully I wasn’t too nervous tonight. I felt good. I felt like I had a good preparation week. No hiccups there. I think that settles my nerves there. When you do walk out onto Arthur Ashe, you feel like people are there to see the show, enjoy themselves. Sure, they come for the tennis, but it’s also sort of a bucket list, wanting to be there,” Federer said.

“So, yeah, there’s pressure. But, no, never gets old,” he added. “I love coming to play here. It’s been so many years now.”

The No. 2-seeded Federer is seeking his sixth title at the U.S. Open, but first in a decade.

He could face No. 30 Nick Kyrgios in the third round and 13-time major champion Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals.

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