Seven-time champion Roger Federer was ousted from one of his favourite tournaments in only 61 minutes on Thursday, falling in straight sets to a 21-year-old qualifier he’d never faced.
Andre Rublev — with only one career win over a top-five player to his credit — took advantages of Federer’s numerous mistakes for a 6-3, 6-4 victory that further depleted the top of the men’s bracket in the Western & Southern Open.
In other men’s action, Novak Djokovic reached the quarter-finals with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Pablo Carreno Busta.
In the women’s bracket, top-seeded Ashleigh Barty reached the quarter-finals, joined by a resurgent Venus Williams.
Federer has won the tournament more than anyone, using it as a springboard to the U.S. Open. He had 16 unforced errors against the 70th-ranked Rublev, who raised both fists and wiped a teary eye in celebration after Federer’s forehand sailed long to end it.
Struggling with his serve, Federer got broken twice in the first set.
“And there you have it. It set the tone for the match a little bit,” Federer said. “He was super clean — offence, defence, serving well. He didn’t give me anything.”
Federer, who lost a classic five-set match for the Wimbledon title to Novak Djokovic, thinks he’s in good shape heading into the U.S. Open despite the upset in Cincinnati.
Second-seeded Rafael Nadal withdrew before the start of the tournament because of fatigue after winning the Rogers Cup in Montreal on Sunday. Djokovic was the only one of the Top 3 left, set to play later in the day.
The day began with the ATP fining Nick Kyrgios US$113,000 for expletive-filled outbursts that included smashing rackets, insulting a chair umpire and refusing to get ready to return serve during a second-round match the previous night.
On the women’s side, Barty beat Anett Kontaveit 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, raising her fist in triumph after fighting off one match point to take the two-hour, 10-minute match. She was down a break in the second set before rallying on a day when she struggled to find consistency.
“The best thing is when my back was against the wall, the tennis was there,” Barty said. “It may not have been there the whole match, but we were able to find it when we needed it.”
Barty, the French Open champion and currently ranked No. 2, can move up to the top spot by reaching the final.
With the crowd cheering for her, Venus Williams recovered from a rough first set and beat Donna Vekic 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, her best stretch of tennis since she won three straight matches in March at Miami.
After a first-round loss in Toronto last week, her ranking slipped to No. 65, her lowest in seven years. With sister Serena cheering courtside, Venus reached the semi-finals.
“I mean, I’m pretty pumped,” Venus Williams said. “When you’re winning, it’s fun.”
Serena Williams withdrew from the tournament because of back spasms. She calmly watched her sister advance.
“I think she believed in me,” Venus Williams said. “She was rooting hard, but didn’t seem panicked at all after I lost the first set.”