Roger Federer brings down curtain on his career with a defeat, but still dazzles alongside longtime friend and rival Rafael Nadal
It wasn’t a match-winning performance. But it was a solid one. Roger Federer saved his best tennis effort yet by battling past Joao Sousa on Saturday to reach his first Australian Open quarterfinal in over two years, beating the Brazilian in three sets to reach the last eight for the second time this year.
He fell behind 1-0 in the opener, but found his game and his rhythm, especially when he started showing some of the qualities that have been the foundation of his extraordinary career. In the second set, he pushed his way through more than an hour of play, and in the third he found the rhythm he had lacked so far in a long career—a game that he maintained through the eighth set. He was on point in the final set until serving to get back to 30-30, and he was not quite able to recover.
By the time he fell behind 2-1 in the fourth, however, Sousa’s mental toughness was more visible than his physical condition. Federer had saved break points in two of the previous three games, and after Sousa won the next three tiebreakers, he could not find anything to save the match. (Sousa had lost just one of his previous eight matches until Saturday.)
After a few moments of silence and of a moment of reflection, Federer said, “Just for the record I thank Joao for tonight.”
Federer has fallen short of a record-tying eighth consecutive major, and he may not have to play in a major again after a season in which he lost five times—to Sousa, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic—and reached just one Grand Slam final in 2013. He had just a couple more tournaments left—a second Australian Open and the French—but he has done enough to claim he’s back to, at least in the mind of many, the best player in the sport.
Nadal, the other top player from their generation, celebrated with the same kind of celebration that Federer does when he wins a match. The world No. 1 said that he always finds himself playing with the same feeling after winning a match because, after