Roger Federer admits he can scarcely believe he’s won the Australian Open with his first grand slam triumph over Rafael Nadal in almost a decade.
The peerless Swiss says he could never have dreamed of winning a fifth title at Melbourne Park – and magical 18th grand slam singles crown – at age 35 and in his first official tournament back after six months out of the game.
Conquering his most colossal rival on one of sport’s biggest stages for the first time since the 2007 Wimbledon final to break a four-and-a-half year major title drought only made it sweeter.
“I think it will sink in a little by little when I’m on the plane chasing my kids around or when I’m home watching them ski or whenever,” the father of four said after his epic 6-4 3-6 6-1 3-6 6-3 victory on Sunday night.
“This one I know is a milestone in my career, no doubt about it. It is like winning the French Open in ’09 (to complete my career grand slam) or my fifth Wimbledon in a row or fifth US Open in a row.
“And being part of those epic matches against Rafa, it is always epic. This one means a lot to me because he’s caused me the most problems over the years.
“So to get one go my way in a fifth set is incredible, absolutely, and feels super special.”
Federer confessed to doubts about his playing future after being forced to call an end his 2016 season after Wimbledon, after aggravating the knee he had operated on four months earlier.
“I mean, there’s no guarantee really,” he said.
“I did believe that I had the game and the mental and physical capabilities to do it again.
“Now, I knew it was not going to get easier, you know, with Novak (Djokovic) and Andy (Murray) making their moves and Rafa still being around, and (Milos) Raonic and (Kei) Nishikori and (Grigor) Dimitrov all getting better.”
But the knowledge that he’d reached two semi-finals and two title matches in his previous four grand slam appearances was enough to bring the champion Swiss back.
“I knew it would be tough, but if I look back at the last years, when I was fit, you
know, 15, 12, 11, I mean, I was actually always really, really close,” Federer said.
“I had a tough year in ’13 with my back, last year with my knee and never lost belief.
“It shows and pays off for me and for everybody.”