Tennis

Grigor Dimitrov stuns ailing Roger Federer in U.S. Open quarterfinals

AP

Betrayed by his 38-year-old body, and his forehand, Roger Federer is done at the U.S. Open.

Federer’s upper back and neck gave him trouble, he kept missing makeable shots and he kept giving away the lead against a guy he’d never lost to. It all added up to getting beaten 3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 by 78th-ranked Grigor Dimitrov in the quarterfinals before a stunned crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday night.

“Grigor was able to put me away,” Federer said. “I fought with what I had.”

Chasing a 21st Grand Slam title, and sixth at Flushing Meadows, Federer appeared to be flexing his upper back after some points and said afterward that he began feeling something in that area in the afternoon.

He took a rare-for-him medical timeout after the fourth set, leaving the court with a trainer. When play resumed after a break of nearly 10 minutes, Federer’s form never picked up.

“He started slowing down a little bit,” Dimitrov said. “For sure, in the end, he was not 100 percent of himself.”

Federer kept contributing to Dimitrov’s cause, missing shots this way and that, long or wide or into the net.

The stats were staggering and showed exactly how off Federer was on this evening: 61 unforced errors, 33 on the forehand side. Compare that to his 40 total winners.

And so his two-sets-to-one lead vanished.

“Start of the fourth wasn’t ideal,” Federer said. “Start of the fifth wasn’t ideal.”

Federer had been 7-0 in their head-to-head series, taking 16 of the previous 18 sets against Dimitrov, who is a decade younger and long ago was dubbed “Baby Fed” because of his similar one-handed backhand and all-court game.

The No. 3-seeded Federer could have become the oldest man to reach a Grand Slam semifinal since Jimmy Connors was 39 in 1991 at the U.S. Open. He could have claimed a berth in his record 56th career major semifinal.

“Just disappointed it’s over, because I did feel like I was actually playing really well after a couple of rocky starts,” Federer said. “It’s just a missed opportunity, to some extent.”

He joins Novak Djokovic on the sideline less than two months after their epic five-set Wimbledon final. Defending U.S. Open champion and No. 1 seed Djokovic retired from his fourth-round match in New York because of a painful left shoulder.

That leaves No. 2 Rafael Nadal as the only member of the Big Three still in the draw. He meets No. 20 Diego Schwartzman in the quarterfinals Wednesday, when No. 13 Gael Monfils plays No. 24 Matteo Berrettini.

Dimitrov will participate in a Slam final four for the third time, facing No. 5 seed Daniil Medvedev on Friday.

Medvedev has drawn plenty of attention at Flushing Meadows for the way he sarcastically thanked booing crowds, trolling them by suggesting their venom was why he kept winning. Now maybe folks will pay more attention to the 23-year-old Russian’s unusual brand of shape-shifting tennis, which carried him past three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka 7-6 (6-4), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 on Tuesday despite 12 double-faults and a body that’s just short of breaking down.

Serena cruises to semis

The numbers associated with Serena Williams’ U.S. Open quarterfinal victory over Wang Qiang were so stark, they bear reading more than once.

Winners: 25-0. Points: 50-15. Minutes: 44. Score: 6-1, 6-0.

This is the portion of the tournament that is supposed to be where winning a Grand Slam title gets difficult, where the remaining players are among the very best opposition around. And yet there was Williams in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday night, making one of the last eight women in the draw, someone ranked No. 18 in a world of billions, look and feel completely overwhelmed.

“Didn’t give her too many chances,” Williams said.

A reporter wanted to know what surprised Wang the most about being across the net from Williams for the first time.

“Power,” came the answer.

The way she hit groundstrokes from the baseline? The way she served?

“Everything,” Wang said with a smile.

Looking as dominant as can be as she moved closer to a 24th Grand Slam singles trophy and seventh U.S. Open championship, Williams was not troubled one bit by the right ankle she rolled in her previous match.

“Physically, I’m feeling great,” Williams said, “and more than anything, I’m having fun every time I come out here.”

This was her 100th match win at the U.S. Open, dating to her debut in 1998 as a teen.

“From when I first started here . . . I never thought that I would get to 100. Didn’t even cross my mind I would still be out here,” said Williams, who turns 38 later this month. “But I love what I do.”

The American will face No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine for a berth in the final. Svitolina eliminated 16th-seeded Johanna Konta of Britain 6-4, 6-4 earlier Tuesday.