The second night match on Arthur Ashe Stadium was mostly an afterthought. A majority of tennis fans completely overlooked Roger Federer’s matchup against world #55 John Millman with Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic looming in the next round. However, it was simply not Federer’s night as he fell in 4 sets to Australia’s Millman. At first Federer looked to be in control, taking the first set 6-3 with a single early break, and a single break point saved on his serve. In set 2 the seas shifted though as Millman steadily built belief, Federer faced a multitude of break points in his opening service game, and although he broke Millman for 3-2 he gave up that break at 5-5 and then dropped the second set largely due to a poor first serve percentage.
While Millman started to believe and up his game, Federer was (for once) showing his age. The Swiss star looked fatigued or ill, struggling to land first serves and hitting an abnormal number of drop shots and volleys, shots that often resulted in errors. Millman was the player firing off the wings and moving well as he held his nerve to take the the third set tiebreak and move a set from victory, saving a set point in the third set tiebreak.
In Set 4 Federer went up a break and the match looked to be headed for a 5th set before Millman broke right back to square up the match. Federer, while not clearly injured, continued to look off, pacing slowly between points and playing a large number of slice shots, while struggling to win points when not landing his first serve. His troubles continued with errors almost never seen by Federer, including missing an overhead at the net on game point.
Similar to previous sets, Federer had chances to take control. He had two game points in the game he was eventually broken, similar to the several set points he had on his serve in the third set. Not to take credit away from Millman, who battled hard all match, but an on-point Federer capitalizes on those chances almost every time. It was Federer’s worst serving performance of the 2018 season, by far. The Swiss missed over 50% of his first serves (at one point his first serve percentage was at 40%), and he lost over 50% of the points on his second serve.
Federer also racked up an absurd amount of errors, especially on the backhand side. It’s something we never see from the Swiss. He hit a whopping 76 unforced errors, including seven in the final-set tiebreak. Every point he lost in that tiebreak was an unforced error.
At the tail end of the fourth set, Millman continued to put Federer under the pump. What he lacked in raw talent he made up for in heart as he forced Federer to hold for 6-5 and then held his serve with the pressure on to force a 4th set tiebreak, despite clearly being tight.
In the ensuing tiebreak Federer won just one of the first six points–his serve letting him down as he hit two consecutive double faults–as Millman was the better player going up 5-1 and taking control of the match for the final time to the despair of Fed fans the world over. Millman sealed the win taking the tiebreak 7-3 on his serve, claiming the biggest victory of his thus-far journeyman career. The loss for Federer is just his 5th before the quarterfinals of a Slam since 2013.