Roger Federer shanked. He took an off-court medical timeout for treatment on his upper back and neck. He straight up stopped playing on one point. Federer was anything but himself, falling in five sets in the U.S. Open quarterfinals on Tuesday night.
Grigor Dimitrov, a former world No. 3 whose ranking has fallen to a seven-year-low 78, pulled off the stunner 3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 to make his third Grand Slam semifinal and his first since January 2017.
“[Federer] kind of started slowing down a little bit,” said Dimitrov, the lowest-ranked U.S. Open men’s semifinalist Jimmy Connors was No. 174 for his memorable 1991 run at age 39. “For sure at the end he was not 100 percent.”
Dimitrov, whose game was so similar to the Great Swiss that he was nicknamed “Baby Fed” years ago, was 1-7 in his last eight matches going into the U.S. Open and 0-7 against Federer in his career.
Federer’s U.S. Open ended five days earlier than expected. With Novak Djokovic out, his path was open to the final, potentially against Rafael Nadal for the first time at Flushing Meadows.
“Just disappointed it’s over because I feel like I was actually playing pretty well,” said Federer, who finished his two previous matches in a crisp 79 and 80 minutes, respectively. “Just a missed opportunity to some extent.”
Instead, Dimitrov gets No. 5 seed Daniil Medvedev in Friday’s semifinals. Nadal is the only man left in the draw who has made a Grand Slam final. He plays Argentine Diego Schwartzman in the quarterfinals on Wednesday night.
Federer was all over the place Tuesday night, reminding everyone of his age (38). He dominated at times, reeling off highlight shots. He sprayed balls into the seats at others with 60 unforced errors.
He took a rare medical timeout, leaving the court for several minutes before the final set. Then he dropped the next four games, a hole he could not climb out of.
“This is Grigor’s moment and not my body’s moment,” Federer said. “I fought with what I had.”
It all means that Federer failed to win a Grand Slam in a calendar year for the first time since 2016. His lead in the career Slam titles count is more precarious than ever.
He has 20. Nadal is at 18 and now heavily favored to get to 19 (and to at least 20 before next summer). How many more chances will Federer get to win Slams?
“I don’t have the crystal ball,” he said.