Moments after becoming the oldest Grand Slam champion in 45 years with a breathtaking victory over Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer dropped a hint about his future.
It may not hold much tennis.
Having just won the Australian Open with three straight five-set matches, the 35-year-old Federer sent the crowd at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena into a tizzy by saying, “I hope to see you next year. If not, this was a wonderful run here, and I can’t be more happy to have won tonight. Thank you very much, guys.
“You guys fill up the seats and make it just a wonderful experience for us as players to fight harder and harder and one more time and one more.
“Always you guys have been amazing over the years. I have been coming here for almost 20 years now, and I’ve always enjoyed it.”
He was right about his run and his victory, a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 result that gave him his 18th Grand Slam singles title. Federer had taken the previous six months off and, like Nadal, was a surprise finalist because of recent injuries. Neither player, he said with a laugh, expected to be playing in a final, let alone providing one of the great matches.
After his semifinal win, Federer had talked about an upper-leg injury and said it would be worth not being able to walk for five months if he were to win No. 18. But when he did so, he wasn’t reassuring anyone about his plans for 2018. His immediate plan was to join his team and “party like rock stars tonight.” After that?
“This is all about, you know, knowing that I have only so much tennis left in me. If I do get injured, you know, maybe if I miss next year, who knows what happens?” he said.
“You never know when your next Grand Slam is going to be, if ever. You never know if you’re going to have an opportunity at this stage; I felt I could thank so many people at once. It’s a live audience. It’s a moment for me to be appreciative of them.
“Yeah, I mean, look, I’ve had a tough year last year. Three five-setters are not going to help. I just meant it the way I meant it. There wasn’t something planned behind it, that this is my last Australian Open. I hope can I come back, of course. That’s my hope right now.”