Australian Open champion Roger Federer has conceded he thought he had blown his chances of winning a sixth title in the fifth set against Marin Čilić, before an epic performance enabled him to secure his 20th Grand Slam crown.
Federer defeated Čilić in a five-set classic, 6-2 6-7 6-3 3-6 6-1, but it wasn’t without some nervous moments.
The Croatian responded from a 3-1 deficit in the fourth set to force a decider, before Federer upped the intensity to cruise through the fifth set.
However, the 36-year-old admitted he endured some anxious moments.
“It went all through the stomach,” Federer told Whateley this morning.
“The nerves and everything beforehand, and also during and afterwards when it is all said and done, that is the relief. It has been a great tournament again and what a final.
“I thought I had lost it in the fifth set but somehow I was able to turn it around, and I got a bit lucky as well.
“I’m going to have a nice relaxed party this morning. It has been good fun. Everything has been great.”
Federer’s 20th Grand Slam title strengths his grip atop of the men’s leaderboard for most Grand Slam championships, and he says it’s an achievement he never comprehended reaching.
“It’s a surreal number,” he said.
“When I woke up this morning and I saw the trophy there, I never thought I would get to 20, I never thought about it, and all of a sudden here it is. I have it.
“I think this one is going some time for me to sink in and that’s why I’m happy I have nothing going on in the next couple of weeks, which is a great thing. I have time off to decompress.
“When you’re younger, everything is very fast paced, you race to the next thing.
“When you’re older, you think it could be your last, so you savour it much more.”
After it seemed father time had caught up to Federer a couple of years ago, he has managed to piece together a career resurrection. How much longer it can last, though, is a question that he doesn’t have an answer to.
“It could be for much longer, but I don’t know,” Federer said.
“Maybe now it only takes one injury or anything to happen around me or the family. Who knows what, and then right away it is better not to do it anymore.
“I’m happy I can still do it, I enjoy the moment while I’m still on tour, I have no plans to stop right now.
“I’m in for the long haul, but it’s a question I can’t answer.”
The ability to adapt is an element only the greats can manage, and for Federer that meant a new racquet. It has ended up being central to his turnaround, as it’s allowed him to do more on the court.
“I think it is my trying to take the ball on and having changed my game,” Federer said.
“Driving through the backhand, I think the bigger racquet allows me to do that. I serve with easier pace.
“I had to give up on a few things where maybe I would have felt better before with my older racquet, which got me so much success.
“The willingness to make adjustments and still wanting to improve later on in my career made me be successful now.
“There are always little things to improve. Sometimes you got to take one step backwards to take two steps forward.
“Then of course I got lucky with injury that it wasn’t as bad as other players have had.
“It has been wonderful to be back on the court.”
With 20 Grand Slam titles comes great media attention and admiration from fans, peers and the general public.
The all-encompassing lifestyle is a frantic one, but Federer makes sure to never forget his roots and where his love for tennis started.
“I try not to see it in a too big of a picture,” he said.
“I really try to enjoy playing tennis just like it always was for me as a little boy and never forget that part. The rest just comes with it and I have to deal with it.
“It is a bit strange to get it right in my head and I don’t want to get carried away.
“When it’s all said and done, I can look back and like or not like certain things I did.
“We are entertainers, but we also want to make people happy and I’m so happy that so many people seem to enjoy me playing tennis.
“It’s one of the reasons I’m still playing today.”
Listen to Roger Federer’s chat with Gerard Whateley in the player below!