Roger Federer put a brave face on his dramatic five-set defeat by Novak Djokovic in Sunday’s Wimbledon final, describing it as an “opportunity missed” to win his ninth title.
The Swiss held two championship points on serve at 8-7 in the fifth set but Djokovic fought back to win 7-6(5) 1-6 7-6(4) 4-6 13-12(3).
It was the first time a men’s singles match had been decided by a tiebreak at 12-12 in the decider, and it brought Djokovic a fifth Wimbledon and 16th Grand Slam title.
It was a gut-wrenching loss for Federer, who was within a point of his 21st major victory.
“It was definitely tough to have those chances,” said the 37-year-old, adding: “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.”
The result sees Djokovic draw within four victories of Federer at the top of the all-time list of major winners on 20, and two behind Rafael Nadal, who claimed his 18th at the French Open last month.
It is 10 years since Federer surpassed the then record of 14 Grand Slam titles set by Pete Sampras.
“[It] used to be a really, really big deal, I guess when you were close,” said the Swiss.
“I guess two behind, then eventually you tie, then eventually you break. That was big.
“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.”
And a month short of his 38th birthday, Federer fully expects to be contending for major titles for the foreseeable future.
“Take it on your chin, you move on,” he said. “I couldn’t give any more. I gave it my all and I still feel alright.”
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