Tennis

Federer a master of his fate

While many doubted him, Federer believed he had the game to win another Major

In his darkest moments last year, when he doubted if he would ever get back to full fitness following his knee injury, Roger Federer clung on to one thought - he still had the game to maybe sneak another Grand Slam title.

He was right.

Federer, who missed the Rio Olympics and US Open last year while he recovered, outlasted Rafael Nadal in five sets on Sunday to clinch his 18th Grand Slam title at Melbourne Park, 4½ years after his last.

"There's never a guarantee but I was always positive," the 35-year-old told the Australian Open website, about how he got through the doldrums last year.

"It was about staying calm and believing the work's paying off and that the variety I have in my game maybe allows me to maybe sneak in one or a couple."

Federer said his belief was also based on the fact that until his injury, he was still competing well, reaching two Grand Slam finals in 2015 and two semi-finals last year.

"If you look back at my results, in 2016 and especially in 2015, I think I played some really good tennis and some good attacking tennis," he said.

"Honestly, I believed I could do it, the question was how's Novak (Djokovic) going to play, how's Andy (Murray) going to play, Rafa and everybody.

Knowing that I have only so much tennis left... I hope I can come back, of course.Roger Federer, when asked if he had suggested he would retire before the 2018 Australian Open, at the trophy ceremony on Sunday

BIGGEST ENEMY: TIME

"I knew it was going to be hard because they're not getting any worse and I am getting older, so I don't have much time."

With Murray and Djokovic both crashing out before the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park, Federer took his chance, beating Kei Nishikori, Stan Wawrinka and then Nadal.

He said Sunday's 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 win ranked alongside his 2009 French Open victory, which completed a career Grand Slam and ended a run of three defeats in the final.

  • BY THE NUMBERS

    18

    In winning his 18th Grand Slam, Roger Federer now has four more Major titles than the next best, Pete Sampras and Rafael Nadal.

    2

    Federer’s latest victory makes him the second oldest man to win a Major singles title in the Open era at the age of 35, behind Ken Rosewall, who won Grand Slam titles when he was 36 and 37.

"I think this one will take more time to sink in. When I go back to Switzerland, I'll think, 'Wow'. The magnitude of this match is going to feel different," he said.

"I can't compare this one to any other one except for maybe the French Open in '09. I waited for the French Open, I tried, I fought. I tried again and failed. Eventually I made it. This feels similar."

Federer had promised to "party like rock stars" after capturing his fifth Australian Open crown, and he was bleary eyed when he turned up to the champions' photo shoot in Melbourne yesterday.

"Waking up, I don't know if I slept, even if I did sleep," said Federer. "I had to look at the highlights again to remember how close the match was again."

Federer, who climbed to 10th in the world rankings after his win, added it was his self-belief when he was trailing 3-1 in the final set that had helped him to victory.

"I said to myself, 'I'm all in'," he said. "I still had the mindset that I had nothing to lose.

"I think I was able to shuffle all those things around in my head and believe until the very end I could actually turn it around and the last four games were just epic, so I couldn't be happier." - REUTERS

Federer hits back at 'timeout cheating' comments

Roger Federer slammed comments that he had engaged in "legal cheating" by taking a medical timeout at a crucial stage of his Australian Open victory over Rafael Nadal on Sunday.

Federer went off for treatment just before the deciding fifth set, after Nadal had levelled the match at two sets all, and returned to win 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

Australia's former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash criticised Federer, who also had a timeout before the fifth set of his semi-final with Stan Wawrinka.

CAN'T STOP

"You can't just stop a marathon if you're tired... I can't stress how bad this has been supervised or looked at by the medical team here in the whole tour," Cash said on BBC radio.

"It's wrong, wrong and wrong. It's cheating and it's being allowed. It's legal cheating, but it's still not right."

But Federer, 35, defended his right to receive treatment, saying he had been feeling pain in his upper right thigh for much of the tournament.

"I also think we shouldn't be using these rules or abusing the system. I think I've led the way for 20 years," he said.

"So I think to be critical there is exaggerating. I'm the last guy to call a medical timeout. So I don't know what he's (Cash) talking about."

Federer said his leg had been hurting since his second-round match with Noah Rubin, and the pain spread during his match with Wawrinka.

TIMEOUT

"After he (Wawrinka) took a medical timeout, I thought I could also take one for a change and see if actually something like a massage during the match is actually going to help me," he said.

"It did a little bit potentially. I'm not sure. And then today I felt my quad midway through the second set, and the groin started to hurt midway through the third set."

Federer finished the match strongly, fighting back from a break down to break Nadal twice and pull off a record-extending 18th Major win. - AFP

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