The prophets of doom will be stalking Roger Federer after his fourth-round defeat against Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Australian Open on Sunday, but his legion of admirers around the world do not need to fear we have seen the last of the game’s all-time great just yet.
A miraculous performance from Tsitsipas earned him a 6-7 (11-13), 7-6 (7-3), 7-5, 7-6 (7-5) victory that could so easily have been a straight-sets defeat if Federer had taken his chances to close out the second set, with the scenes on Rod Laver Arena at the end having the hallmarks of what felt like the end of a glorious era for most decorated player of his golden era.
Federer’s wave as he left the court drew applause and the odd tear from those looking on, yet delve into this compelling fourth-round encounter and it is clear that the Swiss remains a player capable of challenging for major titles through 2019, with that statement especially relevant when he returns to his favourite tournament of Wimbledon in July.
John McEnroe was quick to suggest this defeat for Federer marked a “changing of the guard” at the top of the men’s game, but the response of the 20-time Grand Slam champion confirmed he still has the stomach for more despite his historic success.
“He’s in front of the mic a lot,” said Federer was asked about McEnroe’s comments. “He’s always going to say stuff. I love John. I’ve heard that story the last 10 years. From that standpoint, nothing new there.
“About Stefanos, I think he’s definitely done a really nice job now the last year and a half. I mean before that, too, obviously.
“But beating Novak (Djokovic) in Toronto, the likes of (Kevin) Anderson and (Alexander) Zverev, now me here. That’s what you need to do to get to the next level. He’s doing that. It’s really nice for him. I see him definitely being high up in the game for a long time. That was a good night for him.
“There are always multiple factors that play in a match like this. I had 12 break points and didn’t manage to take any of them, which is very frustrating. I felt I played okay and I just lost to a better player who played very well.
“I have massive regrets in this game. I had to win the second set and it didn’t matter how I did it. I didn’t and it cost me the game tonight.”
Federer may well have closed out the second set of his match against Tsitsipas a few years ago and while his backhand lacks the punch that allowed him to sweep back to the top of the game in wonderfully unexpected fashion in 2017, this sporting genius should dare to believe he has one more glorious moment left to cherish.
While Federer is expected to play the Masters series events at Indian Wells and Miami in March, he is set to return to clay before focusing his attentions on winning a ninth Wimbledon crown.
“I’m in a phase where I want to have fun,” Federer stated, as he confirmed he intends to play on clay this season. “It’s a bit of a desire. I don’t feel it is necessary to have a big break again.”
Only Djokovic would go into a match on the grass at Wimbledon as a favourite to beat Federer this summer and for that reason, this enduring wonder of the sport should still be considered a potent threat to place a 21st Grand Slam title onto his remarkable record before he hangs up his racquet for the last time.
Follow Kevin Palmer on Twitter @RealKevinPalmer
Another update from Andy Murray.
Happy birthday to Goran Ivanisevic.
Juan Martin del Potro back on the tennis court.
Tennis Today features Fedal and Andy Murray.
Coaching merry-go-round in full swing.
Andy Murray upbeat for rest of 2019.
Former world No 1 Kim Clijsters is to make comeback.
Novak Djokovic “actively working on his recovery” in order to be ready for Asian swing.
Your list of Grand Slam female winners by country.
Bianca Andreescu is confident she “can do even bigger things in this sport”, providing that she can stay healthy.