NEW YORK — Roger Federer lost in the fourth round of the U.S. Open for the first time in a decade, surprisingly beaten 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-4 by 19th-seeded Tommy Robredo of Spain.
Monday night's result caps a rough Grand Slam season for Federer, who owns a record 17 major championships, including five at Flushing Meadows.
He exited in the semifinals at the Australian Open in January, the quarterfinals at the French Open in early June, and the second round of Wimbledon — against a player ranked 116th, to boot — in late June. That ended Federer's record run of reaching at least the quarterfinals at 36 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments.
Now, thanks to Robredo, Federer has a new, unwanted streak: Two consecutive losses before the quarterfinals at majors.
And this is the first year since 2002 that Federer did not reach at least one final at any of the four Grand Slam tournaments. That year marked the last time Federer — who has spent more weeks than any other player at No. 1 — was ranked lower than he is now at No. 7.
At age 32, Federer has struggled with a bad back and experimented with a larger racket head, and all along, he's had far more trouble winning matches than he usually does — particularly against the sort of players he barely broke a sweat against at his peak.
That this defeat came against Robredo made it all the more stunning. Not that Robredo is a slouch. He's been ranked as high as No. 5, albeit back in 2006, and this is his seventh trip to the quarterfinals at a major. He made it that far at this year's French Open by doing something no man had done since 1927, winning three matches in a row after dropping the first two sets of each.
But consider these other facts about Robredo and this matchup: Not only was he 0-10 against Federer until Monday, he'd managed to win only three of the 27 previous sets they'd played. And before Monday, Robredo's record in the fourth round of the U.S. Open was 0-7.
Heading into Monday, the buzz at the U.S. Open was all about looking ahead to a potential quarterfinal between Federer and his nemesis, Rafael Nadal. Owners of a combined 29 Grand Slam trophies, they have played each other 31 times — including in eight major finals — but never in New York.
Federer's loss means they won't fix that gap in their rivalry this week.