LONDON: Roger Federer insisted he will play on for many more years to come despite crashing out of Wimbledon in a shock defeat that brought his extraordinary Grand Slam run to a juddering halt.
Though downbeat, the Swiss legend said he would not go into panic mode after being knocked out by unfancied Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky in the second round on Wednesday.
The world No. 3 said there was perhaps a sea change happening in tennis where lower-ranked players now had the belief to mix it with the sport’s best, like himself, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal.
Federer’s shock 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/5), 7-5, 7-6 (7/5) loss to world No. 116 Stakhovsky on his Center Court stomping ground brought the curtain down on his run of 36 consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final appearances, which started at Wimbledon 2004.
At 31 years old, some are questioning whether Federer’s all-conquering powers are now openly in decline.
But the man himself insisted he had plenty left in the tank.
“I still have plans to play for many more years to come,” the seven-time Wimbledon winner said.
“It’s normal that after all of a sudden losing early after being in the quarters 36 times, people feel it’s different.
“I wish it wasn’t going to end here. But I don’t think that’s something fans are going to mourn.
“It’s a great number. I can be proud of it. But I’m moving on.”
He said he would reflect on the run “when I’m retired—and that’s not right now.”
Federer plans to use his unscheduled time off to recharge and focus on the rest of the season.
“What do you do after something like this? What do you do? Do you do the 24-hour rule? You don’t panic at this point, that’s clear. Just go back to work and come back stronger.
“Somewhat simple; hard to do sometimes. But usually I do turnarounds pretty good. I’m looking forward to what’s to come. I hope I can play a good end to the season.”
And the 17-time Grand Slam champion felt he was generally performing well.
“This is a setback, a disappointment, whatever you want to call it. But then overall I think I played great eight months ago at the World Tour Finals, I played great at the Australian Open,” he said.
“I didn’t play so much as of late. At the same time that gives me more flexibility with my schedule moving forward and next year as well.
“I have more options now than I did have one year ago when I was running around trying to chase down every possible tournament and every point to get back to world number one.
“Overall I think I’ve been playing actually not so bad, like some have portrayed it. Season’s not over here. Only just in the middle. Still have a lot of tennis left.”
Federer said more credit was due to lower-ranked players, with so much attention focused on the ‘big four’.
“I think there was a time where some players didn’t believe they could beat the top guys. So maybe there’s a little bit of a thing happening at the moment. I’m happy about that, that players believe they can beat the best on the biggest courts in the biggest matches,” he said.
“I think it’s very important, that belief. We’re missing the teenagers overall, so it’s up to other guys to do it like we’ve seen this week, at other places as well. All we can do is give it all we have, be a professional, train hard, do all the right things, what you’re supposed to be doing.
“I’m looking forward to playing hopefully injury free for the rest of the season, then we’ll go from there.”