Roger Federer once won five straight US Opens. However, he has not won the title since 2008. We continue our series looking over Federer’s losses since that 2008 victory.
2013 – Round 4 – Robredo def. Federer 7-6 6-3 6-4
In what would be the Swiss’ first loss before the quarterfinal in ten years, many still don’t know how to summarize this one. The 32-year-old went into the match with a perfect 10-0 head-to-head against the Spaniard, losing just two sets. Despite struggling the last few months in what also featured a surprise second round loss at Wimbledon to Sergiy Stakhovsky, no one saw Roger Federer losing this.
If anything, the match is perfectly summed up by the man born in Basel hitting 43 unforced errors over just the three sets as well as just converting two of 16 break points. Evidently, the forehand just didn’t work throughout. It gifted breaks to Robredo, such as at 3-3 in the second set, with three unforced errors on that wing. When your biggest weapon is a liability you know you’re in for a rough ride.
Reason Federer lost: Without a doubt the worst Grand Slam performance of his career. Truth be told, he would have played a Rafael Nadal in great form in the next round, so perhaps that partly played on his mind, but either way that was truly a horrific performance.
2014 – Semifinal – Cilic def. Federer 6-3 6-4 6-4
With Nishikori waiting in the final, many Federer fans would have felt this was a big chance wasted for a first US Open title since 2008. Despite the loss in straight sets, it really doesn’t tell the story of the match. One would just think Federer didn’t perform and played another shocker like the 2013 match against Tommy Robredo, but in reality it’s quite different.
The bottom line is that the Croatian played without a doubt the best match of his career, hitting 43 winners to just 23 unforced errors alongside facing just two break points. Even the ’04-’08 champion found himself with a positive winner to unforced error ratio at 28 to 17, just highlighting how well the 6’6” Croat played.
Reason Federer lost: Similar to his 2012 loss to Berdych at the US Open, he was simply outplayed.
2015 – Final – Djokovic def. Federer 6-4 5-7 6-4 6-4
Without a doubt the most heartbreaking loss for the Swiss in the last six years at the US Open, perhaps even longer given it was a final. Going into the match Federer found himself destroying everyone in his way, including Stan Wawrinka, that year’s Roland Garros champion. Losing serve just two times en route to the final and with Novak Djokovic struggling against the likes of Spaniards Feliciano Lopez and Roberto Bautista Agut, many favoured the older man in blistering form to finally get another US Open under his belt.
What will hurt Federer and his fans about this loss is the way it went down. It wasn’t Djokovic playing amazing, like a few months earlier in the Wimbledon final. Instead, it was Federer dictating play against an opponent happy to grind from the back and let him beat himself, which he ended up doing.
Countless times when the 2009 Roland Garros champion had break points, 23 in total to be exact, he simply had the upper hand only to finish the point with an unforced error, resulting in a poor 4/23 conversion rate. Meanwhile, Djokovic whilst nowhere near his best was at a far more assured 6/13.
Reason Federer lost: Simply didn’t finish points or play the big points well enough. The actual level of his game was more than capable of winning a sixth US Open, but mentally he let himself down, perhaps due to Djokovic’s dominance over him at Grand Slams.
2016 – Did Not Play
2017 – Del Potro def. Federer 7-5 3-6 7-6 6-4
Despite winning two Slams in 2017, a back injury severely hindered Federer’s preparation for the US Open and it showed. Not to say the level of the 36 year old was poor, but it was far and away off from what we saw in Melbourne and London the very same year.
For the most part the match was still a tight affair, it wasn’t only until Federer squandered four set points in the third set and hit a smash into the bottom of the net in the fourth set gifting Del Potro a chance to break, that things became wayward. At the end of the day, someone as good as the 2009 champion was never going to waste opportunities gifted to him. That day, Roger Federer paid the price.
Reason Federer lost: No one will say Federer was at a great level, but regardless of that he still competed well. Like many of the other losses, had the Swiss played the bigger points better the outcome could have very well been different.
Last year might just be the strangest US Open I’ve seen in a long time. The courts were incredibly slow and during certain hot days Arthur Ashe became almost impossible to play in, with the heat and air barely moving inside. All of this led to another poor loss for Federer at the US Open.
The strange part is serving for a two sets to love lead at 30-0 up, the former champion was easing his way to the quarterfinals as many expected. His sudden loss in form came more or less out of nowhere and only ended up getting worse as he hit many poor double faults and unforced errors in crucial moments in the last two sets to send him home.
Reason Federer lost: Conditions were tough but he simply didn’t adapt well and as a result played very poorly. Another match where he’s lost at the US Open due to not producing tennis at the level he expects from himself.
Overall: Besides the few bad performances here and there, in most of his runs to the latter rounds of the US Open the last ten years, Roger Federer has had chances, chances he hasn’t taken. After coming so close to winning Wimbledon this year there’s no doubt the quality of tennis he needs to produce to win another title in New York is there, but producing it when needed and playing the big points well, especially against fellow top players could be his bane yet again.
Main Photo from Getty.