Roger Federer’s bid for a record seventh Australian Open title has been ended by Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Federer‘s magical run at the season-opening major came to a dramatic end on Sunday night as Greek prodigy Tsitsipas – 17 years Federer‘s junior – showed nerves of steel to defeat the 37-year-old.
The vanquished Swiss maestro waved to fans as he departed Rod Laver Arena, the scene of countless triumphs and a late-career renaissance which included title victories over Rafael Nadal in 2017 and Marin Cilic last year.
Federer later revealed he plans to contest the French Open for the first time in four years – an announcement that immediately prompted speculation he could be eyeing a farewell tour.
The 2009 champion withdrew from the 2016 tournament and skipped the clay season in each of the two years that followed.
“It’s a bit of a desire. I’m in a phase where I want to have fun and I’ve missed not doing it,” Federer was quoted as saying in French by Agence France-Presse.
“I don’t feel it is necessary to have a big break again.”
While Federer is yet to address his long-term future, it is far from certain he will return at age 38 to make a record 21st Australian Open appearance.
His performance in a scintillating clash with Tsitsipas was hardly that of a star on the wane, although he paid the price for an unusually high 55 unforced errors.
Rising to the occasion in spectacular fashion, Tsitsipas saved 12 break points to hold serve for the match and deny Federer an opening.
“I also didn’t break him at the Hopman Cup, so clearly something is wrong how I return him, what I’m trying to do,” a dejected Federer said.
“He’s doing a good job to defend them. Nevertheless, it’s very frustrating.”
After prevailing in a tiebreak to take the first set in just shy of an hour, Federer had opportunities to press his advantage but couldn’t finish his work.
The 20-time grand-slam title winner had four set points on Tsitsipas’s serve up 5-4 in the second but failed to convert.
“I have massive regrets tonight … I felt like I have to win the second set,” Federer said.
“I don’t care how I do it but I have to do it. Cost me the game tonight.”