Roger Federer crashed out of the US Open after defeat to Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro, and said afterwards that he never felt “in a safe place” physically or mentally during the tournament.
Del Potro, the 24th seed for the title, won the quarter-final 7-5 3-6 7-6 (10-8) 6-4 in beating third seed Federer. The Swiss tennis legend had struggled with a back injury in the build-up to the New York showpiece, and confirmed that he had never felt 100% fit.
He admitted he hadn’t felt well enough in either body or mind over the past couple of weeks and his confidence had clearly been affected by a back injury that hampered his preparation. This made him an unlikely champion, especially as he laboured to five-set victories in the opening two rounds.
“I knew going in that I’m not in a safe place”
When faced by a competitor like Del Potro, the writing was on the wall and he was made to look uncomfortable and very uncertain. There were some poor misses by Federer, who presented himself at the net too often and invited Del Potro to pass him, which he did with a fearsome forehand.
Federer, 36, said, “It was one of those matches where if I ran into a good guy I was going to lose, I felt. I don’t want to say I was in a negative mindset, but I knew going in that I’m not in a safe place. It might have depended too much on my opponent – and I don’t like that feeling. I had it throughout the tournament, and I just felt that way every single match I went into.”
Federer has been enjoying a brilliant year
- He ended a five-year wait for another Grand Slam
- He won the Australian Open
- He added an eighth Wimbledon title to his collection in July
Federer decided to miss the French Open, so arrived at Flushing Meadows unbeaten in Grand Slam matches this year. In fact, he had only suffered three defeats all season. However, he picked up a back injury in Montreal a few weeks ago, which disrupted his preparation. When he had to face two five-set matches in the first two rounds, things suggested that all was not good.
The defeat to Del Potro meant an end to Federer’s hopes, for the time being, of winning a 20th Grand Slam title and replacing Spaniard Rafael Nadal for the number one spot in the world rankings.
The 19-time major champion added, “I didn’t have that feeling at Wimbledon or at the Australian Open, and that’s why rightfully so, I’m out of this tournament. I wasn’t good enough in my mind, in my body and in my game to overcome these three pillars. It should hurt, and it does, rightfully so, but I think my perspective at this age, and with the season that I have had, it’s easier to grasp faster, so I’ll be fine quickly.”
Federer did have his chances against Del Potro, notably having four set points in what was a dramatic third set tie-break. Had he won that set, it could have swung the match in his favour.
The Swiss said, “I’m OK with it, and I tried until the very end. Smashing certain stuff in the net that I normally wouldn’t, smashing forehand volleys into the back fence, I mean, that stuff sucked. Honestly, it was terrible. Juan Martin did well. He served well, had some big shots when he needed to. That was the part that he did so much better tonight – and that’s why he deserves to win. I feel I have no place in the semis and he will have a better chance to beat Rafa, to be honest.“
Not only does the defeat to Del Potro bring an end to Federer’s Grand Slam season, but it also denies the Flushing Meadows crowd from witnessing a first meeting between Federer and the 15-time major champion Nadal. This was the sixth time in 10 years that the pair have missed out on playing each other by just one match.
“I’m dealing with just trying to understand what happened”
But Federer wasn’t thinking of this. He said, “I didn’t even think about it as I lost that match. I’m dealing with just trying to understand what happened and just to overcome this in the next few hours, days, weeks, whatever it is. I’ll be fine. Of course, it is a pity, but Juan Martin deserves it more.”
Federer’s attempt to win three Grand Slams in a year for the first time in a decade has ended at the quarter-final stage, but Del Potro, who has had wrist surgery four times since winning the US Open title in 2009, could well lift the title again.