Roger Federer on his moment of realisation: “When I lost to Felix in Halle in 2021, I cried, I knew I would not win Wimbledon”

The Swiss said the end of the match with Hubert Hurkacz at Wimbledon in 2021 was “one of the worst moments” of his career

Roger Federer in Halle Roger Federer in Halle (Panoramic)

Roger Federer can pinpoint the exact moment when his hopes of winning a ninth Wimbledon title were gone.

It wasn’t when he was struggling in the first round against Adrian Mannarino, a match he admits he was lucky to survive when the Frenchman quit through injury. And it wasn’t even in the quarter-final against Hubert Hurkacz when he slipped away in the third set with the indignance of having not won a game.

Instead, it was a few weeks beforehand, in Halle, when he was beaten in the second round by Felix Auger-Aliassime (4-6, 6-3, 6-2). His right knee, operated on twice in 2020, was not where he wanted it to be and he knew, deep down, that his chances were gone.

“What I do remember is when I lost to Felix in Halle, I cried after the match and I knew I will not win Wimbledon,” Federer told a small group of British reporters this week at the Laver Cup, the event he helped to create and after which he will retire from professional tennis, aged 41.

“So I was realistic about my chances at Wimbledon. Once you are in the moment, you try to convince yourself, (to go for it) at all costs. I knew that it was going to be really, really difficult to win Wimbledon.”

Federer : “In the moment, you believe. Then you go ‘Geez, I was miles away’.”

This week, his coach Ivan Ljubicic said he was probably at about 60-70 percent fitness that year, but still Federer gave it his all. And when he beat Cameron Norrie in the third round and then Lorenzo Sonego in the last 16, he convinced himself that anything was possible.

“In that moment, I was on the court and I was playing. I was OK, you know,” he said. “At a certain level, but I was OK. You come to a certain point where against certain players that are of the good level, you create too many moments of let’s say me having to defend.

You can go back and check the tapes, I don’t know how many times I came out of a defensive position and saved myself

Roger Federer

“If I look back at my Wimbledon, maybe you can go back and check the tapes, I don’t know how many times I came out of a defensive position and saved myself. There was nothing left in defence. So I had to play extra offensive and just try to weasel my way through the matches this way.

“Of course the first one I got maybe semi-lucky. Then I started to feel better. I played actually a really good match against Cam Norrie. But you know certain player-types creates a lot of problems. I still truly believed if I would have won that match (against Hurkacz) somehow then maybe I could have made it to the final.”

“I think it was Matteo Berrettini next. I had beaten him in the past at Wimbledon. Maybe I could have been dangerous for him there. Then if it’s not Novak in the final…. you never know.

“I’m just saying I’ve been there in those moments. So in that moment, you believe in it. But when it’s all said and done, you’re like: ‘Geez, I was miles away’.”

Switzerland's Roger Federer in action during his quarter final match against Poland's Hubert Hurkacz at Wimbledon in 2021
Switzerland’s Roger Federer in action during his quarter final match against Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz at Wimbledon in 2021 Image Credit: AI / Reuters / Panoramic

On the 6-0 Hurkacz match: “I felt awful. The knee was gone”

In an interview with L’Equipe this week, Federer said he was amazed that after the Hurkacz match he had not been asked a single question about how his knee was. In fact, there was one question about his comeback and the effort recovering from surgery but nothing specific on the knee at that time.

“People judge you but they don’t know. There was not one single question on my knee during the press conference, which to my eyes is phenomenal,” he told the French sports newspaper. ” It was the only thing in my mind. For months, each morning, each minute, and at the very end I’m not supposed to even talk about it?

“In a way I was happy with that, but I just couldn’t figure out what people had seen. Either I’m very good at hiding my problems. Or people just don’t understand. Or even they are too nice to talk about what hurts.”

You can’t turn back the time and go, oh, we should have changed this. So be it.

Roger Federer

That 6-0 set proved to be his last ever set in singles, no way to go out for a man who changed the game, won 20 Grand Slam titles and 103 tournaments worldwide.

“It was an amazing result, I thought, under the circumstances I was under with my knee,” he told British reporters. “Now at the end of that match was one of the worst moments of my career because I really felt awful. It was over, the knee was gone, and then knowing I had to face the media right afterwards in a short amount of time was really hard.

“But for me, it is what it is. You know you can’t turn back the time and go, oh, we should have changed this. So be it. “

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