Roger Federer’s fourth-round loss to 55th-ranked John Millman at the U.S. Open on Monday night came as such a shock that it left tennis fans everywhere searching for answers, including Federer.
As soon as his post-match news conference began, the Swiss legend was inundated with questions about why he failed to reach the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for just the seventh time since winning his first Wimbledon 15 years ago. What was ailing you? Was something feeling off in your motion?
“It was hot,” said Federer, whose 37-year-old legs tired in 80-degree temperatures made worse by New York City’s humidity, even after midnight. On the verge of a two-set lead, Federer fell 3-6, 7-5, 7-6, 7-6 to Millman, a 29-year-old Australian appearing in the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time.
The heat really to blame for Federer?
“I couldn’t get air. There was no circulation at all,” said Federer, who added that this was “one of the first times it’s happened to me.” He lauded Millman for handling the heat — “He maybe comes from one of the most humid places on earth, Brisbane” — but Federer repeatedly suggested that the new roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium made the air circulation feel different from a 120-degree daytime match.
“I do believe since the roof is on that there is no air circulation in the stadium,” added Federer. “I think just that makes it a totally different U.S. Open. Plus conditions maybe were playing slower this year on top of it. You have soaking wet pants, soaking wet everything.”
The retractable roof made its U.S. Open debut in 2016, when Federer was forced to withdraw from the tournament with a knee injury. He lost to Argentinian Juan Martín del Potro in last year’s quarterfinals.
Circulation was a chief construction concern
Circulation was a considerable concern at Flushing Meadows for all involved in the project. Architect Matt Rossetti told Tennis.com when the new facility opened, “Frankly, it starts with circulation. In the master plan, the number one issue was circulation. You are not going to be able to solve anything else until you have a solution for that. That is where all the creature comforts for the fans start.”
And for the players? Federer, the world’s second-ranked player, is the first star to share his concerns.
Birdair, the company that constructed the roof, says on its website, “Thanks to the design, fabrication and installation of the new tensile fabric structures, the 2016 U.S. Open events will benefit from enhanced shading and a reinvented iconic aesthetic, all without sacrificing daylight or circulation.”
Millman also described conditions as ‘brutal’
Millman was so unfazed by the heat that he was joking about his fantasy football draft afterwards:
Fresh off beating Roger Federer at 1AM ET, John Millman says he has a 7AM fantasy draft and is unsure if he should select Todd Gurley or Le’Veon Bell. pic.twitter.com/m8Wpg4XxFl
— Patrick Daugherty (@RotoPat) September 4, 2018
Calling Federer “a hero of mine,” Millman added, “I felt a little bit guilty today because he didn’t have his best day, and that’s for sure. I know that. I’m very aware he didn’t have a great day in the office. Probably to beat him I needed him to have an off day and I needed to have a decent, good day.”
Millman was “fine in terms of breathing,” but the humidity at this year’s Open has made for “brutal” conditions that have left competitors dripping with sweat and struggling to grip their racquets.
‘Hope for another hot day’ – Roger Federer
Federer invited Millman to train with him in Switzerland earlier this year. The five-time U.S. Open champ praised Millman’s intensity and said he’ll need it against Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals.
“He just has to bring it again, try to worry Novak, hope for another hot day, maybe,” said Federer.
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