NEW YORK (AP) — Roger Federer's famous forehand was off-target, and it didn't help matters that his opponent, Tomas Berdych, wasn't missing much.
Eventually it became clear even to Federer that he was going to lose Wednesday night — that for the first time since 2003, he was he not going to participate in the U.S. Open semifinals.
"So many moments, I thought, 'Man, it's just not happening for me,'" the 17-time Grand Slam champion said. "It was just a very disappointing match for me."
Able to muster his best shotmaking only occasionally, the top-seeded Federer was stunned by No. 6 Berdych of the Czech Republic 7-6 (1), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in the quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows.
It was Berdych's fourth victory in his last seven meetings against Federer, including in the 2010 Wimbledon quarterfinals en route to a runner-up finish to Rafael Nadal at the All England Club.
How did Berdych explain his success against Federer? After all, Berdych never had been past the fourth round at the U.S. Open and was coming off first-round losses at Wimbledon and the London Olympics.
"It's probably the way that, with my game, I'm able to make him some trouble," said Berdych, who will play Olympic champion Andy Murray in Saturday's semifinals. "There is something in my game that he doesn't like, and it makes him a bit struggle, I would say, and maybe bring him out of his comfort zone."
Perfect analysis, Tomas.
Although Federer did not agree.
"The power is not really the issue here," Federer said. "I don't think that was a problem for me. The problem was elsewhere."
Perhaps. Still, the 6-foot-5 Berdych did keep pounding serves and groundstrokes right where he wanted them, pushing Federer this way and that and finishing with a total of 14 aces, 30 winners and only 21 unforced errors.
Federer, meanwhile, made 24 of his 40 unforced errors off the forehand side.
He hadn't competed since Saturday, and he looked rather rusty, particularly for the first two sets against Berdych. The man Federer was supposed to play in the fourth round Monday, Mardy Fish, withdrew because of a health scare.
But Federer essentially dismissed that as a possible explanation for his rather un-Federer-like performance, shrugging his shoulders when asked if that was important.
"I don't know. I hope not. I have been there before. Once I had 6 1/2 days off and I ended up winning Wimbledon," he said. "I don't think this was the issue tonight."
In dark sneakers bearing a tiny gold trophy with a black "5'' etched on it — representing his title count at the U.S. Open — Federer made things more interesting by winning the third set, but he couldn't maintain that momentum in the fourth.