In one of the best matches of the season, Roger Federer suffered his first loss since November, falling in a tough three sets to Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 6-7(8), 7-6(1).
In the match, Federer held three championship points serving 5-4 in the third set. He then was routed in the ensuing tiebreaker ending a run of 17 straight matches and a chance at a record sixth Indian Wells title.
And he goes down to del Potro for in the second straight event in the U.S. after the US Open last September and for a fourth time in six finals.
After the loss, Federer reflected on the match and that horrible tiebreak which saw him double fault twice.
Q. Talk a little bit about just the twists and turns in that match. It really felt tense. You could almost see it on both of your faces.
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, I think you described it. It was a lot of chances on either end. He should have maybe closed it first in the second set, I believe. Even early in the second set, I think he had break point chances, but I was able to find my game and get out of that game.
Yeah, then it was close. I had maybe a bit more chances early on in the second set to maybe get even a break earlier, but I finally got it and served for the match, couple match points, two, three, not even really sure. It doesn’t matter whether it was 20 or 1 (smiling).
But, you know, look, it’s disappointing, but I thought it was a good match. Yeah, Juan Martin was a bit better at the end. It was maybe a point here or there, maybe a shot, maybe a forehand, maybe a chip.
So that’s how it goes. It’s unfortunate, but I’m happy for him. Well done to him.
Q. We don’t see you get too irritated during matches too often. I was just wondering what was bothering you today and just in your conversations with the umpire.
ROGER FEDERER: I don’t even remember half of it, to be honest. I don’t want to get into the details, you know. I think I was just also just trying to pump myself up more, you know, to get energy for me.
So, yeah, that’s basically it. I don’t — I really don’t want to get into it. It had no effect on the outcome of the match. I think we both, you know, went after the umpire for different reasons or the same reasons in different moments. He’s got a tough job sometimes and sometimes not, so depends on how you take it.
Q. Any particular reason for the bearded look this week?
ROGER FEDERER: Nope. Next question? (Smiling.) No, really there is not.
Q. What do you think happened in the tiebreaker of the last set? Was it all the emotions that were going on already with a bit of tiredness or…
ROGER FEDERER: No, I started badly. Bad return first up. He had a good return after that. I don’t know. Just probably took some wrong decisions, you know, along the way. I lost my serve a little bit. Yeah, and then he was clean and I wasn’t. And then it goes very quickly in the breaker.
As close as it can be sometimes when you’re not feeling it or momentum has shifted, it’s just crazy how it can go the other way. But, you know, I had already missed my opportunities then, but I still — you know, standing at the trophy ceremony, I think I would like to play that tiebreaker again, because I don’t know what the hell happened. But it’s okay. You know, it happens sometimes.
Q. You played Del Potro I think four times last year. What are some of the subtle differences in his game since he’s really come back to the tour?
ROGER FEDERER: What the differences are?
Q. Yeah. Has he changed his game out since he went out with the wrist surgeries?
ROGER FEDERER: I mean, he’s been back a while now, hasn’t he? Has he not been back for almost two years now?
Yeah, I mean, look, in the beginning he was chipping a lot, for quite a while, actually. I was surprised how long it took him to get more and more confident coming over, but I feel like he’s finally there. I mean, only he will answer the question. Later on when he comes in, you can ask him.
But I feel like he looks good on the backhand now. Basically to his old self, really. Yeah, I mean, I just think it was, for him, probably a confidence thing, you know, on the backhand side.
But what’s interesting is that he put himself out there with no double-hander almost, but just happy to slice and still take losses, I guess, you know, because he knew it was going to probably not be enough against some players, but he was happy enough playing this way, which I admire a lot.
Over time he got more and more confident, and now he’s here and he’s won a Masters 1000. It’s a great story. That’s why I’m also very happy for him today.
Q. Your story is an important one. Persistence and self-belief. Where do you get your self-belief from and what is something you want kids and young adults to learn from you?
ROGER FEDERER: Tough question. I don’t know how much time we have, but, yeah. I mean, look, I think staying positive through the tough moments is really key. Because you’re always going to go through ups and downs in your career, or as a person for that matter. Not every day is sun shining. It’s sometimes a bit of a struggle and important that you take the right decisions; you surround yourself with the right people; you know, you’re happy with what you have.
Of course you can always try to want more and have more and everything, but you might never be happy when you search for things like this.
You know, I have been content for a long, long time on the tour. I guess ever since I became world No. 1 back in 2004 and won Wimbledon in 2003, my life was complete as a tennis player. Those were my dreams as a little kid.
So that’s why retirement can wait, and I’m just really enjoying the ride, you know. Yeah, I’m really having a good time on the tour. And I think by having had, you know, problems of my own in ’16, I think maybe people saw — it hasn’t always come easy for me, as well, because people like to see the easy part, you know, how I make it look easy. It’s not always like that. For nobody it’s like that at the top.
Yeah, it’s a good story. When I can inspire and motivate people through my story, that’s obviously a great thing.
Q. Do you think you grew as a man and in your appreciation of tennis when you were off for all those months?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I don’t think so. I think I appreciate more the guys who have been hurt, because I was in that position now.
Because that’s the part I didn’t quite understand, you know. When guys had to do surgery and rehab, you know, what you go through, you can’t put yourself into their position if you’ve never had it. So I think I definitely have big appreciations what you go through when you are hurt.
Q. You have a very strong record against him, but in finals he’s actually 4-2 against you. Do you think he does anything differently in finals or do you read much into that, or is it purely just a statistic?
ROGER FEDERER: I mean, who knows? I don’t know. You could read into it whatever you want, you know. Should I have won the US Open finals? I could have, should have. I don’t know. I didn’t. Same today. So that would have changed the whole thing around.
But he stuck around and, you know, like most players who go deep in a tournament, the better they start playing, you know. So clearly the tougher they seem to beat. But, you know, of course I have had a few wins against him when he was still younger, you know, where I almost had to win because, you know, he wasn’t quite there yet.
So that’s why I also have a better head-to-head, but I did win the last four or five, I guess. Yeah, I’m not sure why the final record is the way it is. A lot of them have been extremely tight. 7-6 in the third set in Basel, another three-setter in Basel I lost. Most of them have gone the distance, so it’s been tough against him.
Q. I think a couple weeks ago you said you’d make the call after Indian Wells as to whether you’d play the French Open?
ROGER FEDERER: After Miami.
Q. After Miami?
ROGER FEDERER: Maybe I said something wrong, but I did say Miami several times now since probably.
Q. Obviously the loss is a big disappointment, but when it was so tight, does it take a little bit longer to get over or by this evening you’ll be over it?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, yeah, I have to get over it. There is no way around it.
I mean, I don’t know. I feel frustrated, you know, that I let an opportunity like this go by. Serving 40-15, any game I probably win — I don’t know what the stat is — 90-something percent.
So it should sting, like you said, for a bit. The question is how long? It won’t be long, but it’s disappointing talking about a great match like this, losing, even though I was right there, you know.
I don’t know. Having Juan Martin come in and having to hit something past me that’s very uncomfortable for him, and you pick the wrong side and you’re like, Why am I picking the wrong side? Is it him or me? What is it? You just don’t know. Next thing you’re shaking hands and congratulating your opponent. It’s like, Okay, too good. You move on.
And obviously there is not too much time to dwell over it. Like I said, I’m happy for Juan Martin. It’s a tough one. And I still had a good week here. I still see the positives at the end of the day.
It was a great match, honestly. Good fun. Good intensity. We enjoy that. And also it was tough and fair on the court. It was Juan Martin and myself. At the end you saw we are appreciative of the finals that we played against each other, which I think is really important for both of us.
You Might Like:
Ernests Gulbis: ‘I Don’t Care About Money, I Don’t Care About Fame’
Novak Djokovic: The Good Thing Is I Don’t Need Wrist Surgery, But I Don’t When I Can Play Tennis Again
Andy Murray On Who’s The French Open Favorite: I Don’t Know And I Don’t Care!
Roger Federer Shows Up at the Super Bowl
Serena Williams: I Don’t Have Anything To Prove, It’s Paris, It’s cool, I’m Having The Time Of My Life