Roger Federer’s quest for a ninth title at The All England Club came to a dramatic end with just his fifth defeat from two sets up in an unparalleled 20-year, 1415-match career.
The 20-times grand slam champion blew a third-set match point before succumbing 2-6 6-7 (5-7) 7-5 6-4 13-11 to big-serving South African Kevin Anderson in a four-hour, 14-minute quarter-final thriller on Tuesday.
But the vanquished champion Federer plans on returning for another tilt at Wimbledon glory next year – and don’t call it unfinished business.
The great Swiss was philosophical in defeat, offering no excuses, just dejection and a few minor regrets.
“I had my chances so it’s disappointing, but he was consistent and solid. He got what he needed it when he needed it. Credit to him for hanging around really that long,” Federer said.
Federer ultimately paid the price for failing to convert any more than three of 12 break-point opportunities, including three in a row with Anderson serving at love-40 in the fourth set.
But, turning 37 in less than a month, Federer refused to blame fatigue after giving up a two-set advantage for the first time since doing so seven years ago against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Novak Djokovic at consecutive slams at Wimbledon and the US Open.
“I felt good actually,” Federer said.
“Sure, it’s disappointing losing the next two sets after winning the first two and having match points. I’ve been there before. I know what kind of energy I need to bring to the fifth. I was able to bring that.
“To be honest, I didn’t feel mental fatigue. Now I feel horribly fatigued and just awful. It’s just terrible. But that’s how it goes.”
Federer also refused to blame the unfamiliar surrounds of Court One, despite never looking entirely comfortable on it.
With Thursday’s other two quarter-finals between world No.1 Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro and three-time champion Djokovic against Kei Nishikori given star billing, the titleholder was shunted off Wimbledon’s Centre Court for the first time in three years – and 21 matches.
“It’s just not one of my best days,” he said.
“It’s one of those average days you have to try to win the match, and I just couldn’t get it done.”
Father-of-four Federer hopes to be back for a 21st straight shot at the title in 2019.
“Of course, the goal is to come back here next year. I wouldn’t call it ‘unfinished business’. I felt like I did some good business here in the past already,” he said.
The only other times he has surrendered a two-set lead came against Lleyton Hewitt in Switzerland’s 2003 Davis Cup semi-final loss to Australia in Melbourne, and to David Nalbandian in the 2005 Masters Cup decider.