Marinko Matosevic says he felt awestruck having to play tennis superstar Roger Federer in front of basketball legend Michael Jordan at the US Open.
Australian tennis battler Marinko Matosevic rued his wretched luck after falling victim to “the greatest player of all time” at the US Open.
But if having to deal with his idol Roger Federer wasn’t enough, Matosevic had to play the 17-times major winner in front of another king of the court, basketball legend Michael Jordan.
Jordan sat in Federer’s courtside box at Arthur Ashe Stadium and Matosevic said it was all a bit much.
“I was, like, a little awestruck,” Matosevic said after his gallant 6-3 6-4 7-6 (7-3) first-round loss.
In honour of his superstar guest, Federer wore brand new Air Jordan 3 shoes and celebrated the occasion with a tour-best 50th win of the season.
“Growing up, Michael was my hero of all sports and to have him here is unbelievably special,” Federer said after opening his quest to match Jordan’s six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls with a record-equalling sixth US Open crown.
“I put them up there with Diego Maradona and Muhammad Ali, that’s for sure,” Matosevic said.
“I played the greatest player of all time. Fed came up with some unbelievable shots that left me in disbelief.”
Including a “tweener” – a back-to-the-net, under-the-legs screamer that even had Jordan applauding.
“But I felt like I could have won the third set,” Matosevic said.
“I just made some fundamentals there in the tiebreaker when I was 3-1 up.
“Who knows what could have happened? He could have very easily won the fourth 6-0 – I don’t know – but it was very disappointing.”
Last time Matosevic played Federer he lost 6-1 6-1 in January.
“It was worlds apart in Brisbane because I thought the guy was floating because I cheer him on every time he plays the other guys,” Matosevic said.
“And it was, like, Friday night in Australia and I was going through some personal issues and there he is across the other side of the net. It was a strange feeling.”
Matosevic lamented having struck Federer so early in the tournament and next year hoped to be seeded to avoid the big guns until the later rounds.
“I’ve played a seed here every time – four years in a row – and one year, I twisted my ankle,” he said.
“It feels like the whole summer, since Wimbledon, I haven’t had any luck on my side.
“It’s been one issue after another. I’m going to go train really hard away from this.”
The early exit ended any chance Matosevic had of making Pat Rafter’s Davis Cup team for next month’s World Group playoff against Kazakhstan.
Not that he was too fussed.
“I think it’s a blessing in disguise – 30 hours to Perth and it’s on grass – I don’t really want to go,” Matosevic said.
“Plus, I’m fourth in the singles pecking order. I don’t want to be the orange boy, so I’m really looking forward to training really hard.
“Last year, I didn’t get to play the last four weeks of the season, so I’m really looking forward to seeing if I can finish the year nice and strong.”
Federer plays Matosevic’s countryman Sam Groth next and said he had a fair idea what to expect from the owner of the world’s fastest recognised serve.
“Some big serves, I dunno,” the Swiss ace said.
Federer’s projected semi-final opponent, Spanish fourth seed David Ferrer, joined the world No.3 in the second round on Tuesday with a 6-1 6-2 2-6 6-2 win over Bosnian Damir Dzumhur.