Federer bounced early from US Open due to unforced errors

If Roger Federer’s resurgence at recent grand slam events is proof his career isn’t over yet, his performance at the 2018 US Open serves as a reminder that the end might not be far off. Federer was eliminated in the fourth round by John Millman, marking just the second time in Federer’s last 14 US Open appearances that he has failed to reach the quarterfinals, and the match was one that the younger, fitter Federer of the past likely would have taken.

Federer committed 76 unforced errors and 10 double faults against Millman, who looked overmatched in the first set before Federer started slipping. The 37-year-old appeared to be struggling with the heat, and Millman appeared content to let the weather do its work as he bounced back from a 3-6 first set loss to take the next three 7-5, 7-6 (7), and 7-6 (3). While Federer struggled with double faults, he also served 13 aces to Millman’s eight, and he also had Millman beat 65-47 in winners, solidifying the notion that Federer was his own unbeatable opponent.

Federer blamed his sloppy performance on the heat in his post-match press conference, noting that he is not usually so adversely affected by the temperature. It’s a sign that age might finally be catching up with the living legend, who has rewritten most of the record books in men’s tennis during his illustrious career. Previous claims about the end of Federer’s career were met with three defiant grand slam victories at 2017 Wimbledon and the 2017 and 2018 Australian Open, but there will likely be more grand slam matches played during heat waves in the future, and there’s no guarantee Federer’s aging body will handle any better than it did against Millman.

Federer’s next test will be in early 2019 at the Australian Open, where a third consecutive title would rebuke the naysayers once again. It’s certainly not out of the question, as Federer should still be among the top two or three in the ATP rankings heading into the offseason. The loss to Millman was just one match, and it’s reasonable to expect more victories in Federer’s future before he decides to put down his racket, but time is undefeated.