Following one of the most humbling defeats of his career in the semifinals of the Australian Open, Roger Federer will aim to once again show he has plenty yet to offer when stepping back onto the court in Rotterdam next week. Having lost in the final of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year, Federer’s hopes of an 18th Grand Slam title were ended once again by Novak Djokovic in Melbourne last week. And this was his most emphatic loss yet to the world No. 1.
Federer managed just three games in a sensationally dominant first two sets in their semifinal. And, while the Swiss managed to battle back to take a set, the result was never in doubt. As has seemingly been the case after every Grand Slam loss since his last title at Wimbledon in 2012, the immediate question was whether Federer would ever add to his record haul of Grand Slam crowns. Yet, speaking after his latest defeat, the 34-year-old signaled that his belief remains unwavering.
“It doesn't scare me when I go into a big match against any player who's in their prime right now,” he said. “But of course you need to prove yourself. You need to have all that going. It's disappointing, but at the same time I'm going deep in slams right now. I'm having great runs. I thought I had a tough draw here, so I'm actually pleased where my level's at at the beginning of the season.”
Federer also made it clear that his love for the sport and the reaction from fans across the world meant he was raring to get back to action.
“Definitely walk away from a place like this and say, I want to come back next year,” he added. “I want to relive it again. No problem to hit the practice courts. Can't wait for the next tournament. You know, everything's easier when you have a crowd like that. I felt that again tonight.”
He will not have long to wait to get his competitive juices flowing once more. Federer will be the top seed at the ATP 500 event in Rotterdam and will be a favorite to land a third title in the Dutch city. His chief competition on the indoor hard-court event will come from French quartet Richard Gasquet, Gilles Simon, Gael Monfils and Benoit Paire, as well as former U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic and David Goffin, who Federer routed in the fourth round of the Australian Open.
Federer will then have just a week off before heading to Dubai, where he should have plenty of fond memories. One of his six titles in 2015 came in Dubai, when he scored an impressive straight-sets victory over Djokovic in the final. Once again it will be a stacked field, with Djokovic joined by French Open champion Stan Wawrinka and world No. 8 Tomas Berdych.
The prestige of the competition then steps up when Federer will head to the first Masters 1000 event of 2016, in Indian Wells in the middle of March. Federer, who has won the title four times in California, was bested by Djokovic in the final last year. Having surprisingly elected against playing any clay-court warm-up events, Indian Wells will be Federer’s last event before the French Open at the end of May.