Roger Federer cut a disconsolate figure as he tried to come to terms with his shock quarter-final exit against an inspired Tomas Berdych at the US Open on Wednesday.
Not since 2003 had Federer lost before the semi-final stage at Flushing Meadows, winning five titles in that time, and he went into the tournament on a high after a stellar summer.
But Berdych had not read the script and he produced a performance of devastating power to stun the world number one 7-6 (7/1), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 and set up a semi-final clash with Andy Murray on Saturday.
Federer clearly had not seen this coming and mostly he was disappointed with himself for making too many errors, especially in the first two sets. He said: “I really expected myself to play better tonight. Especially at night, I have had such a great record.
“I felt good. It’s such an amazing summer I had. I really thought I was going to come out and play a solid match. I didn’t do that tonight. Obviously there is a bit of a letdown now.”
Federer had never lost in 23 night-session matches at the US Open while Berdych had never played one until Wednesday night, but the conditions were certainly to his liking. It seemed like it would be business as usual when Federer began brilliantly and broke serve in the first game, but Berdych was also playing at a high level and, when the top seed's dropped, the Czech capitalised.
The first-set tie-break was a bit of a horror show from Federer and he was in huge trouble at two breaks down in the second set.
He retrieved one but Berdych did not waver serving out the set and then went a break up in the third, to the disbelief of the huge crowd, who were firmly behind Federer. Finally the 31-year-old stirred, reeling off five games in a row to get one set back, but in a fourth set of supreme quality it was Berdych who struck first in the eighth game and four huge serves finished off the job.
Took no chances
Federer did not feel the walkover he had in the previous round courtesy of Mardy Fish's withdrawal had been a factor and had hoped winning the third set would prove the turning point.
He said: “I still was down two sets to one, so I wasn’t celebrating too much.
“It was good. The momentum switch no doubt gave me a chance, put the score back to zero, put him further away from winning, and made the match go longer, make it more physical, more mental.
“Obviously I was excited winning the third, but the problem was the first couple of sets, particularly the first one.
“I’ve got to go back to the drawing board from here and see what’s really the priority, if that’s a priority for the end of the year.
“We’ll see where I go from now and if I go to Davis Cup or not, what’s to come for the remainder for the season. Number one has another a role to play, but this obviously is a setback. But the season is not over. I hope to finish strong at the end and particularly in the indoor season.”