Federer: 'It's Such An Incredible Opportunity Missed, I Can't Believe It'
Roger Federer was so close, but yet so far away from lifting his ninth Wimbledon title on Sunday against Novak Djokovic. The Swiss superstar let slip two match points while serving for the match at 8-7, 40/15 in a thrilling fifth set, eventually falling short against the Serbian.
“I don't know if losing 2-2-2 feels better than this one. At the end, it actually doesn't matter to some extent. You might feel more disappointed, sad over angry,” Federer said. “I don't know what I feel right now. I just feel like it's such an incredible opportunity missed, I can't believe it. It is what it is.”
On his first opportunity to win the tournament, Federer missed a forehand wide. And on the next point, he pressured Djokovic by approaching to the Serbian’s forehand. The World No. 1 responded with a crosscourt winner past Federer’s outstretched racquet, eventually getting back on serve.
“I was still happy to be at 8-all, 9-all. I don't remember what it was. You’ve got to try to see the positives, you try to take it as a good thing that you're not down a break or that the match is not over yet,” Federer said. “If I could have picked it before the match to be at 9-all in the fifth, that wouldn't be a terrible thing. You just always try to push yourself to see things on the better side. But it was definitely tough to have those chances.”
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The loss will sting for Federer, who was pursuing his 21st Grand Slam title. But it’s not the first time he has suffered a tough loss, and he knows he will have to put it behind him.
“Similar to getting broken when serving for the match: take it on your chin, you move on. You try to forget, try to take the good things out of this match. There's just tons of it,” Federer said. “Like similar to '08 maybe, I will look back at it and think, ‘Well, it's not that bad after all.’ For now it hurts, and it should, like every loss does here at Wimbledon. I think it's a mindset. I'm very strong at being able to move on because I don't want to be depressed about actually an amazing tennis match.”
When Federer broke Pete Sampras’ record of 14 major trophies by winning his 15th at Wimbledon in 2009, Djokovic owned just one Grand Slam championship. Now the Serbian has 16 and Rafael Nadal has 18, both within striking range of 37-year-old Federer’s 20.
“[It] used to be a really, really big deal, I guess when you were close. I guess two behind, then eventually you tie, then eventually you break. That was big,” Federer said. “It's been different since, naturally because the chase is in a different place. I take motivation from different places. Not so much from trying to stay ahead, because I broke the record, and if somebody else does, well, that's great for them. You can't protect everything, anyway.
“I didn't become a tennis player for that. I really didn't. It's about trying to win Wimbledon, trying to have good runs here, playing in front of such an amazing crowd in this Centre Court against players like Novak and so forth. That's what I play for. So things are different now. But I'm very happy with my level of play nowadays, still.”
Despite the disappointment, Federer understands that people will remember this match forever. “I will try to forget [it],” Federer said on court after the match. But people will watch replays of this classic for years to come.
“We know what a great sport it is. I don't think we need the matches, per se. Maybe we need them to sometimes cross over to other sports, maybe get to the fans in the streets and so forth. If that's the case, that this match did something like this, I think that's great,” Federer said. “I think it was a great match with wonderful points played. It had everything. Novak played also amazing today. So I hope it resonates in a big way.”
It’s been 11 years since Federer played Nadal — whom he defeated in the semi-finals on Friday — in what many consider to be the best match ever. Federer also fell short in that five-set thriller.
“This one is more straightforward maybe in some ways because we didn't have the rain delays, we didn't have the night coming in and all that stuff. But sure, epic ending, so close, so many moments. Yeah, I mean, sure there's similarities,” Federer said. “I'm the loser both times, so that's the only similarity I see.”