Tennis

Federer: Defeat not the beginning of my end

Swiss great announces plans to play in French Open after Melbourne exit

Swiss great Roger Federer denied that yesterday's defeat by Greek young gun Stefanos Tsitsipas signalled a changing of the guard, as he announced he will play in the French Open this year for the first time since 2015.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion was shocked by a man 17 years his junior in the last 16 of the Australian Open 6-7 (11-13), 7-6 (7/3), 7-5, 7-6 (7/5) on Rod Laver Arena.

But Federer, the defending champion, played down suggestions it was the beginning of the end for a man who has dominated the sport for so long.

"I've heard that story the last 10 years. From that standpoint, nothing new there," he said.

And in a signal that he is hungry for more, the 37-year-old said he planned to play on clay again this year after sitting out the last three Roland Garros campaigns.

"It's a bit of a desire. I'm in a phase where I want to have fun and I've missed not doing it," he said.

He missed Roland Garros in 2016 with an injury and skipped the clay season the last two years.

"I don't feel it is necessary to have a big break again," he added.

The long-haired Tsitsipas, seeded 14, has been touted as a future Grand Slam champion and Federer had nothing but praise, saying he saw similarities to himself.

"He has a one-handed backhand and I used to have long hair, too," said the world No. 3.

"Yeah, so maybe a little bit, sure. He has more of a continental grip than players nowadays. That's a bit more my way than, let's say, Rafa's way.

"I see him definitely being high up in the game for a long time. That was a good night for him tonight."

Federer conceded he had "massive regrets" about losing and said he didn't win because he struggled to convert his 12 break-points, making none of them count.

"I also didn't break him at the Hopman Cup, so clearly something is wrong how I return him, what I'm trying to do," he said.

Tsitsipas looked surprised after his victory, saying: "Roger is a legend of our sport. I have so much respect for him. It's a dream come true. I'm the happiest man on earth right now."

Tsitsipas' quarter-final opponent will be Roberto Bautista Agut, who knocked out 2018 finalist Marin Cilic 6-7 (6/8), 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.

Earlier yesterday, there was another upset as an emotional Frances Tiafoe celebrated his 21st birthday in style by beating 20th seed Grigor Dimitrov 7-5, 7-6 (8/6), 6-7 (1/7), 7-5 to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time. He will meet Rafael Nadal, who defeated Tomas Berdych 6-0, 6-1, 7-6 (7/4). - AFP, REUTERS

Tennis