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Roger Federer Loses to Stefanos Tsitsipas At The 2019 Australian Open Tennis

Roger Federer of Switzerland attends a press conference after being defeated in his round four men's singles match against Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 20 January 2019. EPA-EFE/DAVID CROSLING AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
Roger Federer of Switzerland attends a press conference after being defeated in his round four men’s singles match against Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 20 January 2019. EPA-EFE/DAVID CROSLING

 

 

By Alix Ramsay

 

Roger Federer has heard it all before although, this time, he may actually believe it.

 

His fourth round loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas, a 6-7, 7-6, 7-5, 7-6, three hour 45 minute display of courage, conviction and calmness on the part of Tsitsipas and puzzlement on the part of Federer bore an eerie resemblance to a match on Wimbledon’s Centre Court 18 years. Then a young Swiss fella called Federer beat his idol – one Pete Sampras – and a stellar career was born.

 

Now, for all Fed fans – do not panic. That loss was not the end of Sampras and he had another grand slam win left in him. But it was a turning point; it was the beginning of the changing of the guard. Sampras by that point was coming to the end mentally as much as physically; for Federer it is different.

 

The mighty Swiss still loves what he does: he loves the lifestyle, the travel (even if it is like a military operation to get him, his team, his wife, his four children and their assorted nannies and tutors around the globe), the competition and the chance to pit his wits against the best in the world. He still likes winning, too.

 

Roger Federer of Switzerland in action during his men's singles fourth round match against Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 20 January 2019. EPA-EFE/LUKAS COCH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

Roger Federer of Switzerland in action during his men’s singles fourth round match against Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 20 January 2019. EPA-EFE/LUKAS COCH

His response to defeat was sanguine. The fact that John McEnroe had officially declared the changing of the guard in his on-court interview piqued his interest mildly but it was the quality of the opponent in front him that captured his attention. In all, he had 12 opportunities to break the Greek’s serve and yet the greatest player the sport has ever seen could not take one of them. This would take time to analyse and assess.

 

“He’s always going to say stuff; I love John,” Federer said. “I’ve heard that story the last 10 years. From that standpoint, nothing new there.

 

“About Stefanos, I think he’s definitely done a really nice job now the last year and a half. Before that, too, obviously. But beating Novak in Toronto, the likes of Anderson and Zverev, now me here. That’s what you need to do to get to the next level. He’s doing that. It’s really nice for him. I see him definitely being high up in the game for a long time.

 

“There is always multiple factors that play into a match like this. But it definitely didn’t go the way I was hoping on the breakpoints. 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. He’s doing a good job to defend them.

 

“I have massive regrets tonight. I might not look the part, but I am. I felt like I have to win the second set. I don’t care how I do it, but I have to do it. Cost me the game tonight. I lost to a better player who was playing very well tonight. Hung in there, gave himself chances at some point, stayed calm. It’s not always easy, especially for younger guys. Credit to him for taking care of that.”

 

Fed, though, is going away to ponder his options against Tsitsipas and the other young, rising stars who have made their mark at the Australian Open. He sees an uncanny resemblance to himself in the young man from Greece.

 

“He has a one-handed backhand and I used to have long hair, too,” he said. “He has more of a continental grip than players nowadays. Sure, that’s a bit more my way than, let’s say, Rafa’s way.”

 

Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece celebrates winning his men's singles fourth round match against Roger Federer of Switzerland at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 20 January 2019. EPA-EFE/LUKAS COCH AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece celebrates winning his men’s singles fourth round match against Roger Federer of Switzerland at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 20 January 2019. EPA-EFE/LUKAS COCH

For Tsitsipas, the moment of victory was one of pure joy. He saw the similarities between his win and that of his idol’s 18 years ago. It is a match he has watched and rewatched as he has tried to learn from the very best. He is not a stats geek, dissecting the percentages but, rather, just a very informed spectator who wants to see how Federer, Djokovic, Nadal and the rest go about their business. Analysing each pattern of play, watching how Fed keeps his cool, how Raf keeps his focus – it all goes into the Rolodex, stored away for later use.

 

“I think I was just very aggressive from the very beginning from his return.” Tsitsipas said. “I managed to not make any mistakes, stay in the point, make him play. Most of the times he missed. Most of the times I saved those breakpoints.

 

“It was actually very mental, I would say. I could have cracked at any moment, but I didn’t because I really wanted it bad. I showed it on the court. Obviously and for sure that mental toughness helped a lot. It could have been a different match if I wouldn’t stand that pressure.”

 

But now Tsitsipas knows he has to go right back to basics. He has to forget about the emotions and the joy of Sunday night and bring himself back down to earth. He now has the stupefyingly consistent Roberto Bautista Agut to face in the quarter-finals. Now he has to get right back to work.

 

“For sure it’s a good win against Roger,” he said. “I mean, we all know who Roger Federer is, what he has done in tennis. But I still have to keep my focus, keep my concentration on further goals that I want to achieve. That’s a very good beginning. I need to stay humble.

 

“This win is a good milestone, let’s say good first step, as I said, to something bigger. I do feel like my game is pretty good at the moment. I feel confident. That’s very important. I’m really pumped and excited to be competing in the quarterfinals two days from now. I’m really waiting for that moment.”

 

And Roger is waiting for the moment he can get another crack at Tsitsipas (and when he can work out how to return the Greek’s serve, he will be a lot happier). But he will be back. Of that you can be certain.

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