By Steve Keating
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Frenchman Gilles Simon delivered the first big surprise in the men's draw at the U.S. Open, taking down fourth seed David Ferrer of Spain 6-3 3-6 6-1 6-3 to move into the fourth round on a sweltering Sunday at Flushing Meadows.
With the loss. Ferrer earned the dubious distinction of becoming the first top 10 men's seed to be sent home from the year's final grand slam while Simon moves on to face big-serving Croatian Marin Cilic, who was a 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-4 winner over South Africa's Kevin Anderson.
A well-rested Ferrer, who reached the third round in a walkover after Australian Bernard Tomic withdrew with a hip injury, got off to a sluggish start then fought back to take the second.
But by the end of the nearly three-hour clash a distressed Ferrer was hunched over the courtside timing board between points dripping in sweat. The 26th seeded Simon finished off the exhausted Spaniard on his third match point.
"It was really, really difficult to play today," said Simon. "I feel it was one of the hardest days for me on the court because it was hot and it was so humid.
"I never sweat like this in the last 10 years. So it was really difficult.
"So, yeah, to play David in this condition is really demanding physically.
"At one point I was really tired. I felt it would be difficult. But then I had more energy; I felt he was in trouble, also."
One of the great grinders in men's tennis, Ferrer has made a career of wearing down opponents but the 32-year-old Spaniard was no match for the punishing conditions he faced on Sunday.
After 10 straight grand slams quarter-finals Ferrer has now made two early exits, his third round departure on Sunday coming on the heels of second round loss at Wimbledon.
"It was tough match today," said Ferrer. "There is a lot of humidity, very sunny and it was not easy for me.
"I was not good with my fitness. He was better."
The first match at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Simon and Ferrer did not face the worst of the heat that later forced officials to declare the heat rule in effect stopping the second contest on the main court between Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki as conditions became too dangerous to play.
Simon said the conditions were in some ways worse than those experienced in Melbourne at the Australian Open where temperatures routinely soar above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
"It's a few years that in Melbourne we have three days like incredible; this year we had it again," said 29-year-old Frenchman. "I feel it was too hot to play tennis in Melbourne. So finally no one was able to play and we were just walking dead on the court.
"But the intensity of the match was pretty low every time. Today what was hard is we just played and run everywhere.
"It was more the combination of the heat and the humidity."
(Editing by Gene Cherry)