Twenty-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer seemed as befuddled in his post-match press conference as he was on the court during his shock defeat to 175th-ranked qualifier Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round of the Miami Open Saturday afternoon.
Normally able to find the perfect answer to every question, the top-ranked Swiss had a hard time explaining how he lost 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) to Kokkinakis, a 21-year-old Australian who considered quitting tennis a year ago after a rash of injuries.
Kokkinakis is the lowest ranked player to topple a world No. 1 in 15 years.
The loss means Federer, who has spent 308 weeks at No. 1 over his career, will lose the top ranking to Rafael Nadal, who is injured and skipping the Miami Open. Federer said he will not play any tournaments during the clay season to prepare for Wimbledon.
Asked how he felt about losing the top spot, Federer said: “I deserve it after this match. That’s how I feel It’s so bad.”
The Miami Open was dealt a double blow on Saturday, as the No. 1 women’s seed also went down. Top-ranked Simona Halep was ousted 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 by Agnieszka Radwanska.
"I'm so happy, especially because she's been playing great tennis in the last couple of months," said Radwanska, 29. “The atmosphere was great here and all worked perfectly. Every match is special here on that court with a full stadium. You cannot ask for more."
Federer won the first set with relative ease, but made uncharacteristic errors in the second set, and Kokkinakis took advantage with his big serve and powerful forehand.
“Look, it’s disappointing,” Federer said. “I could never get to a level I was happy with, but sometimes you have these matches and sometimes you find a way through it, and today I couldn’t...he was just a bit better than me (Saturday). He was a bit more relaxed, I was in search mode the whole match and never got anything going.”
Federer said mistakes in the second set proved costly.
“It felt like every time I had chances, something bad happened for me, wrong decision making by me, good decision making by him,” he said. “Just felt like I could be paying the price for opportunities missed. It started in the second set, I played bad really bad 10 minutes and that cost me the second set and maybe the match.”
Kokkinakis seriously considered hanging up his racket last year, which made Saturday’s huge victory even sweeter.
“This is unreal, I’m not gonna lie,” Kokkinakis said on the court after the match. “I rushed at the beginning, but as the match went on, I felt I had a legit chance to win this thing. A year ago, I was hating tennis, and now, this is unbelievable. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
Kokkinakis had practiced with Federer in Dubai on several occasions, so the two knew each other well, though they had never faced each other on tour.
“He’s a cool guy, cool demeanor, and I always liked his game, so I’m happy for him that on a big stage he was able to show it, on center court Miami, people watching, beating me, it’s a big result in his career and I hope it launches him to get his ranking up,” Federer said.
In other matches, German fourth seed Alexander Zverev defeated Russian Daniil Medvedev 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (7-5). Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov got passt Damir Dzumhur 6-1 7-5. Croatian Borna Coric rallied to beat Argentinian Leo Mayer 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-4. And American Frances Tiafoe was two points from losing but managed to beat Kyle Edmund 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 7-6 (7-5).
Former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, back from maternity leave, beat Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia 3-6 6-4 6-1.
Stoneman Douglas tennis teams honored: On a day of nationwide anti-gun marches in wake of the Feb. 14 Parkland shooting, the Miami Open honored the boys and girls tennis teams of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School by inviting them to an on-court ceremony before the Saturday night session.
Players from MSD linked arms with a few dozen pro players, including Garbine Muguruza, Elina Svitolina, Alexander Zverev, Nick Kyrgios, Monica Puig, Mike and Bob Bryan, Sam Querrey, and Jack Sock. Former great Michael Chang was also on court for the event.
A giant MSD banner was unfurled, a video was shown, and special “MSD Strong” t-shirts with a tennis-ball shaped in a heart were sold for $20 to raise money for victims’ families.
“The resilience you’ve shown has been nothing short of remarkable,” said tournament director James Blake. “We stand with you. We love you. And we support you. You’re family.”
“It shows what an impact we’ve made on the whole world,” said girls tennis player Alejandra Martinez. “We wouldn’t have expected them to help us and invite us here. It helps us to feel better.”
They said the camaraderie among their teammates has helped them deal with the tragedy.
“We’re still shellshocked, still dealing with raw emotions,” said coach Amy Pena. “We don’t know from one thing to another – a smell, a sound – something will set us off. We are walking on a cloud right now. What they’ve done for us here...amazing.”