Roger Federer has denied cheating his way to victory in the Australian Open final on Sunday, after allegations by outspoken veteran Pat Cash.
Speaking on BBC’s Radio 5 Live, Cash slammed Federer’s lengthy medical timeout on Sunday night as “legal cheating”, attacking the popular champion’s decision as a piece of ruthless strategy.
It’s cheating and it’s being allowed. It’s legal cheating but it’s still not right.”
Federer, who had only just returned from a six-month break due to a serious leg injury, took the medical timeout shortly after losing the fourth set 6-3 to Rafael Nadal.
It came at a crucial time in the match, after which Federer went on to win the fifth and final set.
But Federer batted away Cash’s allegations on Monday, saying he had been plagued by the injury throughout this, his comeback, tournament.
“My leg has been hurting me since the (second round against Noah) Rubin match,” Federer told reporters.
“I was able to navigate through the pain. For some reason against Stan (Wawrinka) I had it from the start on both sides of the groin.
“I felt my quad midway through the second set already, and the groin started to hurt midway through the third set.
I just told myself ‘the rules are there that you can use them’. We shouldn’t be using these rules or abusing the system. I think I’ve led the way for 20 years.
“So I think to be critical there is exaggerating. I’m the last guy to call a medical timeout. I don’t know what he’s talking about.”
It was a key moment with the match tied at two sets all. Federer returned to take the final set and the match, prompting some outspoken criticism from former Wimbledon champion Cash.
Nadal was asked about Federer’s move, but the Spaniard wouldn’t be drawn.
“No opinion about that. I don’t know what’s going on,” Nadal said.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 29, 2017
Federer also sent social media into a mild panic on Monday with users theorising on a possible hidden message in his post-match press conference.
“I hope to see you next year, but if not, this was a wonderful run here and I can’t be more happy to have won tonight.”
The “if not” reference had fans and even fellow player Juan Martin del Potro leaping on to Twitter.
Thank you both, don't you ever quit tennis!! GRANDEEE ROGER 🙌 So inspiring!!
— Juan M. del Potro (@delpotrojuan) January 29, 2017
But former grand slam champion and Channel Seven commentator Jim Courier warned in News Corp papers about jumping to conclusions.
“I’m going to interpret that as, ‘If this is my last major win’.
“Roger Federer loves the game, loves the life. It would be hard to believe he would be going anywhere any time soon. This is not a Pete Sampras, one more major and walking off the stage moment,” Courier said, referring to Sampras’s retirement which occurred after not playing a single match following his 2002 US Open win over Andre Agassi.
“He is guy who has carried the weight of being Roger Federer as if it is a feather. This is a guy who is expected to win for so many years and that kind of stress is, it can be a lot on a player, but he’s always just carried it like it was natural for him, like just a normal thing.
“I assure you, it is not normal. There is very little about Roger Federer that is normal.”