‘I had a 3% chance of winning’: Federer reflects on ‘horrible’ defeat to Djokovic as imperious Serb extends Grand Slam dominance
In a landmark 50th meeting between the pair, Djokovic ran out a dominant winner 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 6-3 at Rod Laver Arena – leaving the 38-year-old Swiss without a Grand Slam win against his rival since Wimbledon way back in 2012.
Third seed Federer went into Friday’s match nursing a groin injury exacerbated during his epic quarter-final win against American Tennys Sandgren, and required treatment after a first set against Djokovic which he had seemed on course to win before blowing three break points at 4-1 ahead.
While Federer hung in there as best he could for sets two and three, Djokovic’s relentless pressure eventually told as he improved his record against the Swiss to 27-23 overall and 11-6 at Grand Slams.
Afterwards, Federer lamented what had turned into a chastening experience against Djokovic, who is now eyeing a 17th Grand Slam title overall and a record-extending eighth in Melbourne.
“Today was horrible, to go through what I did,” Federer said.
“Nice entrance. Nice sendoff. And in between, it’s one to forget, because you know you have a 3 percent chance to win.”
"Respect to Roger for coming out tonight. He was obviously hurt... He wasn't at his best and even close to his best in terms of movement and respect for coming out and trying his best all the way through."@DjokerNole | #AO2020 | #AusOpenpic.twitter.com/GbdkmJz9Vl— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 30, 2020
While amassing a record haul of 20 Grand Slam titles, Federer has famously never handed a rival a walkover across 400 matches at Majors, and has never retired in over 1,500 tour-level matches.
But in the intense heat in Melbourne and nursing injury, the Swiss said Friday’s experience had been gruelling.
“Once you can see it coming, that it’s not going to work anymore, it’s tough,” he said, adding: “I don’t think I would have gone on court if I had no chance to win. We saw I was still able to make a match out of it.”
"I don't think I would have gone on court if I felt like I had no chance to win."In true @rogerfederer style, the six-time #AusOpen champion was always going to battle it out for the chance to play in his eighth final down under.#AO2020pic.twitter.com/q0WNF4DqIN— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 30, 2020
Ultimately, the Swiss said Djokovic had simply been “better on the day today, no question” – as the Serb could now move one Grand Slam closer to Federer’s total when the second seed and defending champion meets one of Alexander Zverev or Dominic Thiem in Sunday’s final.
Djokovic, 32, himself appeared to suffer stomach problems in the first set, and in turn paid tribute to Federer’s determination in seeing out the match.
"Respect. That's all I can say. I know how it feels when you are hurt on the court."@DjokerNole offers up huge respect for a battling @rogerfederer, who has never retired from a match in his whole career.#AO2020 | #AusOpenpic.twitter.com/2SyANlWbj3— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 30, 2020
“I just want to say, respect to Roger for coming out tonight. He was obviously hurt,” the Serb said.