Roger Federer was keen to put the focus on Grigor Dimitrov’s achievement in beating him in five sets to reach the US Open semi-finals, rather than the injury that hindered the 20-time grand slam champion in the deciding set.
Federer looked to be on course for a semi-final with Daniil Medvedev when he led by two sets to one at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday.
However, Dimitrov produced one of the most unexpected fightbacks in grand slam history to prevail in a magnificent contest that should live long in the memory.
The fifth set was, in the end, very one-sided as Federer – who left the court at the end of the fourth for treatment on his back – was unable to summon any kind of resistance.
It was Dimitrov who came through a test of endurance that lasted three hours, 12 minutes, winning 3-6 6-4 3-6 6-4 6-2 and reaching his third grand slam semi-final.
Federer, though, refused to place too much importance on his back issue, telling a media conference: “I just needed some treatment on my upper – what is it – back, neck.
“Just needed to try to loosen it up, crack it and see if it was going to be better.
“But this is Grigor’s moment and not my body’s moment, so… it’s okay.”
Class and Grace.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 4, 2019
Asked when he sensed there was trouble in the match, he replied: “When you’re down you feel worse. Had moments that I was in the lead most of the time. Had a chance to come back in the fourth.
“Start of the fourth wasn’t ideal. Start of the fifth wasn’t ideal. That was running behind. That was tough.”
Federer revealed the back problem arose earlier on Tuesday but said: “I was able to play. It’s okay. It’s how it goes. I tried my best. By far not too bad to give up or anything.
“Grigor was able to put me away. I fought with what I had. That’s it. So it’s okay.”
The 38-year-old had never lost to Dimitrov in seven meetings prior to their Flushing Meadows clash, and insisted he was not surprised by anything the Bulgarian threw at him.
“It’s the Grigor I expected,” he added. “He has returned against me in the past also a little bit further back. He has been in, chipped, come over. He has the arsenal to do all sorts of things. He used it all to great effect.”