MELBOURNE (Reuters) – An injury-hampered Roger Federer gave himself only a “3% chance” of beating Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open on Thursday but was more upbeat about his hopes of recovering to win another Grand Slam following his semi-final exit.
Federer, who suffered a groin problem in the quarter-final against Tennys Sandgren, bowed out of Melbourne Park after a comprehensive 7-6(1) 6-4 6-3 defeat to the defending champion Serb.
There was little sign of the injury as the Swiss charged out to a 4-1 lead in the opening set but he was unable to go full bore to drag himself back into the match once Djokovic steadied and ratcheted up the pressure.
“Today was horrible, to go through what I did,” a somber Federer told reporters.
“Nice entrance, nice sendoff, and in between is one to forget because you know you have a 3% chance to win.
“You know, got to go for it. You never know. But once you can see it coming, that it’s not going to work anymore, it’s tough.”
Federer said he was hopeful the injury would settle quickly enough for him to play in an exhibition with Rafa Nadal in South Africa next week before defending his title in Dubai later in February.
Injury notwithstanding, the 20-times Grand Slam champion was still hard on himself for failing to take the first set against a rival he has not beaten at the majors since Wimbledon in 2012.
“Unfortunately I was not able to serve it out. To be honest, I feel like I should have found a way to do that, but wasn’t able to,” he said.
“We know how tough he is, especially when you give him too many second serves. Obviously was better on the day today, there’s no question.”
Having reached a 15th semi-final at Melbourne Park at the age of 38, Federer could hardly complain about his fortnight.
He fought off seven match points in a five-set thriller against American Sandgren after another great escape against Australia’s John Millman in the third round.
“At the end of the day I guess I’m very happy. I’ve got to be happy with what I achieved,” he said.
“It was the maximum to go to get at this tournament, especially after the Millman and the Sandgren match.
“I think I overall played all right. I know I can play better. At the same time I also know I can play much worse.
“With no tournaments beforehand, I think it’s a very, very good result.”
Djokovic will now be favorite to bag a 17th Grand Slam title, while Nadal will have another chance to match Federer’s record of 20 at his favorite French Open.
Though Father Time and his great rivals are closing in, Federer was emphatic that he could still add to his Grand Slam tally.
“Yes, I do believe that,” he said.
“I think by having the year that I had last year, also with what I have in my game, how I’m playing, I do feel that, yeah.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Pritha Sarkar