The setting: Arthur Ashe Stadium, 5th set with Roger Federer serving at 5-3, 40-15 with two match points on his racket. Novak Djokovic thought the match was over, we, the spectators thought it was over, and more importantly Roger Federer thought it was over.....until it wasn't. Smiling at the inevitability, Novak leaned down to return the ball and then promptly smacked it for a winner. The point clearly rattled Federer and inspired Novak, who went on to break and then win the next three games, advancing to the 2011 US Open Final 6-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5.
This is the first year that Roger Federer has not won a major since 2002, and he seemed emotional in his press conference:
Q. This must hurt, Roger. Can you tell us what your feelings are now and where you think it slipped away?
Well, I mean, it's awkward having to explain this loss because I feel like I should be doing the other press conference. But it's what it is, you know, I mean. Yeah, I mean, it's the obvious, really. He came back; he played well. I didn't play so well at the very end. Sure, it's disappointing, but I have only myself to blame, you know.
Q. You seemed like you were taking control in the fifth set. How disappointing is it to not be able to kinda keep that momentum going? You certainly had it in that fifth set.
Yeah, I had it. There's no more I could do. Snaps one shot, and then the whole thing changes. It's strange how it goes, you know, but it was a good tournament for me. Sure, I'd love to be in the finals and give myself a chance to win the title, which is not the case now. So I have to accept that and move on.
Q. Do you find it amazing that he can come up with two blinding forehands in successive years on match point? The odds are pretty remote, aren't they, of him doing that twice?
Look, it happens sometimes. That's why we all watch sports, isn't it? Because we don't know the outcome and everybody has a chance, and until the very moment it can still turn. That's what we love about the sport, but it's also very cruel and tough sometimes. It got me today. It hurts, but it's fine. Could be worse. It could be a final.
Q. What did he do better this time than when you played in the French Open?
Are you serious? I mean, I thought it was a close match. I should have won here. French Open was very close, too. He could have won that. It's just one of those matches, you know. I mean, I set it all up perfect, but I couldn't finish it.
It was a gut wrenching loss for the G.O.A.T. but he left with these parting words:
I guess I will be extremely hungry going to Australia next year. It's clear and obvious, and I know if I keep on working hard now that I'm feeling so good right now it will all pay off. I know it. I haven't felt like this in a long time, so this is a good time.
Don't ever count this "old man" out.