Roger Federer suffered a shock loss to Tommy Robredo at the U.S. Open on Monday, ruining the prospect of meeting Rafa Nadal at the only grand slam where the two greats have never played each other.
In the biggest upset of the tournament, Robredo demolished a badly out-of-sorts Federer 7-6(3) 6-3 6-4 in the fourth round, marking the first time in a decade the Swiss master has fallen before the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows.
"I kind of feel like I beat myself, without taking any credit away from Tommy," a dejected Federer told reporters.
"I kind of self-destructed, which is very disappointing, especially on a quicker court.
"I just couldn't do it. It was a frustrating performance today."
As expected, Nadal safely made it through, recovering after losing a set for the first time in the tournament to beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-7(4) 6-4 6-3 6-1 at an electrified Arthur Ashe Stadium.
But his win was overshadowed by Federer's unforeseen loss against a player he had beaten in each of their 10 previous meetings, spoiling what was looming as the first meeting between the pair in the Big Apple.
"Two times we were one point away. This time we were one match away. But it's always the same," Nadal said.
"When I see the draw, I think about my first round. If I win, I think about my second. That's it.
"I don't see the quarter-finals or the fourth round before the first round. You know how tough is every tournament, every match."
Robredo was almost as surprised as everyone else after one of the biggest wins of his career.
"It's amazing," Robredo said.
"For me, Roger, for the moment, is the best player of all time.
It's amazing... For me, Roger, for the moment, is the best player of all time
"And to beat him in a huge stadium like the U.S. Open and in a grand slam... it's like a dream."
There was an omen even before the match began when officials moved it from the center court to the smaller Louis Armstrong Stadium following a five-hour rain delay.
U.S. Open champion for five straight years from 2004, the last time Federer played a match away from Arthur Ashe Stadium was in 2006 but refused to blame the court switch for a performance that will raise fresh speculation whether he is capable of adding to his record 17 grand slams.
"That should not be the issue," Federer said.
"That's definitely the last excuse you could find."
Robredo will now face Nadal in the quarters, ensuring there will be at least one Spaniard in the semi-finals.
There well could be another after David Ferrer joined his countrymen by beating Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic 7-6(2) 3-6 7-5 7-6(3).
The fourth seed will play Richard Gasquet after the Frenchman saved a match point in the fourth set tiebreak before going on to outlast Canada's Milos Raonic 6-7(4) 7-6(4) 2-6 7-6(9) 7-5 in a slugfest that lasted four hours and 40 minutes.
Raonic served 39 aces and hit 102 winners but paid the price for 80 unforced errors.