In an epic 5-set thriller Novak Djokovic saved two matchpoints and a two set hole to turn away Roger Federer in the US Open semifinals today. Federer won the first two sets in convincing fashion but Djokovic got his teeth into the match in the third, then forced a fifth. In the final set Federer served for the match at 40-15 but a Djokovic blistering return saved one matchpoint. Then Federer got an unlucky let cord on the second 6-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5.
Last year Djokovic also beat Federer saving two matchpoints in a five set US Open loss.
Federer has now lost his last two Grand Slam matches to Tsonga and Djokovic after leading 2-0 in both.
Q. This must hurt, Roger. Can you tell us what your feelings are now and where you think it slipped away?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I mean, it’s awkward having to explain this loss because I feel like I should be doing the other press conference. But it’s what it is, you know, I mean. Yeah, I mean, it’s the obvious, really. He came back; he played well. I didn’t play so well at the very end. Sure, it’s disappointing, but I have only myself to blame, you know.
Q. You seemed like you were taking control in the fifth set. How disappointing is it to not be able to kinda keep that momentum going? You certainly had it in that fifth set.
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I had it. There’s no more I could do. Snaps one shot, and then the whole thing changes. It’s strange how it goes, you know, but it was a good tournament for me. Sure, I’d love to be in the finals and give myself a chance to win the title, which is not the case now. So I have to accept that and move on.
Q. You just said I have no one to blame but yourself. Where do you lay the blame?
ROGER FEDERER: Maybe I said.
Q. Do you find it amazing that he can come up with two blinding forehands in successive years on match point? The odds are pretty remote, aren’t they, of him doing that twice?
ROGER FEDERER: Look, it happens sometimes. That’s why we all watch sports, isn’t it? Because we don’t know the outcome and everybody has a chance, and until the very moment it can still turn. That’s what we love about the sport, but it’s also very cruel and tough sometimes. It got me today. It hurts, but it’s fine. Could be worse. It could be a final.
Q. Could you hit a much better serve for the return he hit that winner?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, much better. I didn’t hit the best serve. But it’s just the way he returns that. It’s just not — a guy who believes much, you know, anymore in winning. Then to lose against someone like that, it’s very disappointing, because you feel like he was mentally out of it already. Just gets the lucky shot at the end, and off you go.
Q. What did he do better this time than when you played in the French Open?
ROGER FEDERER: Are you serious? I mean, I thought it was a close match. I should have won here. French Open was very close, too. He could have won that. It’s just one of those matches, you know. I mean, I set it all up perfect, but I couldn’t finish it.
Q. What did you see of Novak’s reaction and playing to the crowd after he hit that forehand winner? What were you thinking at that point?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I see probably 2% of what he does or other players do because I am focused on my stuff, and I don’t look what they’re doing. I don’t really care. As long as it’s sportsmanship, I don’t care. I don’t know what he did, so it’s not an issue.
Q. When a guy hits a shot like that forehand on match point, is that a function of luck, of risk, or is it a function of confidence that someone would make kind of…
ROGER FEDERER: Confidence? Are you kidding me? I mean, please. Look, some players grow up and play like that. I remember losing junior matches. Just being down 5 2 in the third, and they all just start slapping shots. It all goes in for some reason, because that’s the kind of way they grew up playing when they were down. I never played that way. I believe in hard work’s gonna pay off kinda thing, because early on maybe I didn’t always work at my hardest. So for me, this is very hard to understand how can you play a shot like that on match point. But, look, maybe he’s been doing it for 20 years, so for him it was very normal. You’ve got to ask him.
Q. Comparing this loss to the Tsonga loss in Wimbledon being up two sets, how do you react to that? Are you more frustrated with this one?
ROGER FEDERER: Same thing. I felt like I played okay today. Maybe better at Wimbledon, but then again, it’s a different surface, it’s different opponents. Today I clearly felt like I never should have lost, where in Wimbledon it was I don’t want to say it was more out of my control, you know but it’s, you know, a bit of reaction tennis on grass. I was never up a break in the third, fourth, or fifth at Wimbledon, which today I was. I was one serve away, really. Yeah, I mean, I get over these losses quickly. Wimbledon didn’t get me down.
Q. You were really dominant until the first game of the third set, and you made quite a few errors in that game. Kinda let him back in the match. Given how much longer it went and all the things that happened, how important or unimportant was that game?
ROGER FEDERER: You have to figure that Novak was gonna get his teeth into the match at one stage, right? It’s a pity that it happened then, because I think I had a couple of game points, too. So it hurts getting broken that way. You know, if it goes 15-40 and you never really have a chance to close it out, it’s more acceptable. So like this, it was a bit — again, a bit unfortunate, I thought. He played well. I didn’t serve my very best. It was a combination of many things. And then what he does really well this year, he front runs really well and he started playing great. It was hard to counter his playing. That’s why it was very important to push for the two sets to love lead. Everything I did today I thought was the right way. He just played really well in the third and the fourth.
Q. After the shot that everyone’s talking about, double match point, your next serve was right into his body and he fought it off. That was a good serve, right?
ROGER FEDERER: It was a better serve. I don’t know, I mean, who cares right now? Yeah, maybe I get a bit unlucky with the net cord. Who knows? Seriously, at this point I don’t care anymore. It’s all in the past.
Q. In Melbourne, after your run there, you said not so fast, everybody. Hold on. Let’s see how the year unfolds. A lot of great runs, a lot of good victories this year. No slams. What’s your assessment of your season? I know you’re just coming off a tough loss.
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, that’s a great question. Look, I think the top four guys again had a great season at slams. I definitely had some serious chances to do a bit better, and I still made, what was it, semis, finals, quarters, semis? But I think in a few of them I could have gone all the way, if not a step or two further. It’s maybe, you know, a tough year in terms of some tough losses at some crucial stages of the season. Look, it’s not the first time it’s happened. I have had big matches where I ended up losing some, but the majority I was able to win throughout my career. Some of them you just have to move forward with also losses like this and not get too down about it. Sure you always feel like what an opportunity, what a pity, because you got to wait for a year till the US Open rolls around. But then again, the season is not over yet. I’m looking forward to what’s still to come. Like I said, the year could have definitely been better, but then again, there was some reasons for that too, I’m sure.
Q. Can you put into context this year for the competition, the level of quality of play among the top four compared to, say, the past five years?
ROGER FEDERER: I would say similar, isn’t it? I mean, Novak has finished No. 3 for three or four years in a row. Murray has been in the top 5 for quite some time. Rafa, myself, anyway, we have been around for what, six years, seven years together at the top? What’s it been eight now I have been in the top 4? So it’s been pretty much similar. It’s just that this year someone else won slams than Rafa and myself.
Q. When you lost the fourth set or you were close to losing the fourth set, were you trying to save energy for the fifth? No, you didn’t have any strategy?
ROGER FEDERER: I don’t play that way. I don’t give away stuff and just hope and save and do that stuff like other players do. I mean, yeah, I believe I can turn it around. I believe in, you know, making things happen and work hard, and, yeah, believing it doesn’t matter what the scoreline is. It gives you a bigger lift if you’re up 5-1 than being down 5-1. Who cares? You never know, like we saw today.
Q. Did you notice the crowd’s spontaneous eruption in your behalf as you entered the court in the fifth set, and did that contribute to your good start in the fifth set?
ROGER FEDERER: Well, I mean, the goal clearly was after, you know, not getting that many chances in the third and the fourth that I was definitely gonna come out sort of running and, you know, ready to go and excited about being in the fifth set, because I love playing five setters. It’s what it’s all about. I’ve worked extremely hard throughout my career that, you know, I can win these matches. So that the crowd got into it was fantastic. I mean, you know, I don’t want to say I expected it. But it’s true, every time you get reminded how great the crowd is here in New York, you know, and that they actually wait for something to happen. For them, that was a key moment. They were happy with our performance, and I think they were really hoping I was gonna win today. I felt that. It definitely gave me a lift on top of that, and that’s why maybe it’s even more disappointing I couldn’t deliver that lift today.
Q. You spoke a moment ago about the tough finishes in the slams. How was your belief in yourself different, if at all, today than it was maybe before this season?
ROGER FEDERER: Same thing. I mean, look, I did all the right things in so many tournaments. But like I said, sometimes in sports it just goes the other way, you know. Maybe you’ve already won so much that it evens it out a bit sometimes. I don’t know. But for me, anyway, it was still a good run here. Like I said, I played great. I thought I was playing some really good tennis these last few matches, and that’s definitely gonna give me a lift. Sure, it’s a bit of a bummer here, what happened today. I guess it happens occasionally.
Q. Your first slam was in 2003 and your last one was 2010. At the end of this year, will you have a different feeling than the last seven?
ROGER FEDERER: Not really. I mean, it’s not January 1st yet. Let’s see what happens. There’s still some stuff left: hometown tournament in Basel, the World Tour Finals coming up still where I’m qualified for. So there’s still a lot to play for this season, but definitely I’ve had better seasons, yeah. But then again, you can’t play every season identical. You don’t want it to be, otherwise it becomes boring, too. I guess I will be extremely hungry going to Australia next year. It’s clear and obvious, and I know if I keep on working hard now that I’m feeling so good right now it will all pay off. I know it. I haven’t felt like this in a long time, so this is a good time.
Q. Players have been very vocal and effective in making their views known here. You know the game. Do you expect to see major changes here, or do you think things will just revert again and the schedule will be as it is next year again and so on?
ROGER FEDERER: It will be disappointing if that’s the case. I don’t want to have to say that. Without putting any pressure on them, I think it’s obvious that there needs to be a change, especially at the back end of the tournament. I believe also at the front end you can’t play first rounds over three days in a place where you do get rain and you don’t have a roof so you don’t have that protection. Yeah, I mean, it’s not the first year we’re finishing on Monday. I just think the competitive advantage that maybe one player has over another in any Grand Slam final, at the US Open it’s just unfair for the player. I just hope that a tournament, they understand it, they see that. It shouldn’t even be like a debate and trying to put them in a corner. I just think it’s common sense. We’ll hope for that, otherwise we will have to make ourselves heard again, which is not something we like doing.
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