Roger Federer changes his shirt. (Photo by DAVID GRAY / AFP)
Roger Federer changes his shirt. (Photo by DAVID GRAY / AFP)

Federer’s stern McEnroe rejection

IF JOHN McEnroe thinks he can usher Roger Federer out the door that easily he has another thing coming.

The tennis legend's declaration we were "watching the changing of the guard" as Greek youngster Stefanos Tsitsipas eliminated Federer from the Australian Open on Sunday night was met with a stern backhand from the Swiss champ.

"Yeah, sure," Federer said at his press conference, when asked about McEnroe's assertion during an on-court interview with Tsitsipas.

"He's in front of the mic a lot. He's always going to say stuff. I love John (but) I've heard that story the last 10 years. From that standpoint, nothing new there."

While not ready to agree his time as a grand slam contender is up, Federer was happy to welcome Tsitsipas to the "next level".

"I think he's definitely done a really nice job now the last year and a half," Federer said.

"I mean before that, too, obviously. But beating Novak (Djokovic) in Toronto, the likes of (Kevin) Anderson and (Sascha) Zverev, now me here. That's what you need to do to get to the next level. He's doing that. It's really nice for him.

"I see him definitely being high up in the game for a long time. That was a good night for him tonight."

Tsitsipas' 6-7 (11-13) 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 7-6 (6-5) victory on Rod Laver Arena sees him progress to a quarterfinal against Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut. He was also reluctant to read too much into his victory.

"I try to take every match differently. For sure it's a good win against Roger. I mean, we all know who Roger Federer is, what he has done in tennis. But I still have to keep my focus, keep my concentration on further goals that I want to achieve. That's a very good beginning. I need to stay humble," Tsitsipas said.

"This win is a good milestone, let's say good first step, as I said, to something bigger. I do feel like my game is pretty good at the moment. I feel confident. That's very important. I'm really pumped and excited to be competing in the quarterfinals two days from now. I'm really waiting for that moment."

FEDERER'S SURPRISE PLAN FOR 2019

Federer's fourth-round loss follows a similarly shocking round of 16 defeat at last year's US Open to Australia's John Millman.

The last time he went back-to-back majors without making a quarterfinal was way back in 2013, when he lost in the second round of Wimbledon to Sergiy Stakhovsky and the fourth round of the US Open to Tommy Robredo.

In a somewhat surprising announcement, Federer plans to respond to his Melbourne Park failure by playing clay court tournaments for the first time in the past few years.

Despite appearing to benefit by a reduced schedule in recent years, Federer appears ready to return to Roland Garros, where he's been missing since the 2015 French Open.

"I'm at a moment where I think it would be nice to do it,'' said Federer, speaking in French. "I can say I have missed it, I did the right thing skipping it last year, the year before as well, and the year before that I was injured. So I felt I wanted to do it again."

Just one of his 20 Grand Slam titles has been on clay - in 2009 when he beat Robin Soderling in the final. He lost the three previous French Open finals to Rafael Nadal.

Federer said he wants to avoid having a long break in the middle of the year before the grass season. "I feel that it is not really necessary,'' he said. ''So that's how this was decided.''

His fans will hope it's an attempt to help rebuild a world ranking that will fall from No. 3 to at least No. 6 following this tournament - rather than a sign 2019 is looming as a farewell tour.

TSITSIPAS' GAMESMANSHIP CAUSES TENSION

 

Federer's match against the 20-year-old wasn't without controversy as he bristled against Tsitsipas's call for a trainer during the fourth set.

Federer complained his opponent had been able to call for the trainer 10 minutes before he eventually received his treatment, suggesting the Greek star did not actually have an issue that required medical aid.

TV commentators also said it was clear Tsitsipas was simply in need of the trainer because of his lack of conditioning for marathon tennis matches.

Federer complained to the chair umpire and was clearly seething. "Federer not exactly happy at that changeover, having a chat to the umpire about the physio," McEnroe said in commentary for Channel 9.

Tsitsipas added further insult to Federer by taking a long time to walk back out onto court while Federer stood on the service line ahead of his service game.

Tsitsipas had already been warned twice for time violations and a third violation would have seen him lose the first point of that service game.

"He would want to be careful. Won't want to push it too much. The umpire, I think, was lenient there," Aussie legend Todd Woodbridge said in commentary. "It was just a normal changeover and he took a lot longer."

Some tennis commentators said Federer was absolutely right to complain, saying it is unfair for players to receive treatment for cramps or muscle fatigue.

The Australian Open crowd didn't like Tsitsipas' gamesmanship either and he was booed as he returned to the court.

Federer refused to blame the early umpire controversies for his defeat, saying instead his inability to get a look in on Tsitsipas' serve was the reason he fell short.

Federer went 0-12 on break point opportunities throughout the match and also failed to break Tsitsipas' serve when they played at the Hopman Cup in Perth earlier this week.

"It's human and it's part of the game," Federer said of the umpire controversies.

"I'm not going to start complaining about linesmen or umpires."

He said his struggles with returning Tsitsipas' serve were "very frustrating" and he confessed to having "massive regrets" about the way he played the match.

News Corp Australia

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