Intent on proving the doubters wrong, Roger Federer is convinced more grand slam glory awaits despite his frustrating title drought continuing at Melbourne Park.
Turning 35 in August, Federer has now gone 14 majors and three and a half years since landing his record 17th singles slam at Wimbledon in 2012.
But the Swiss – who is projected to return to world No.2 next week – bristled at the suggestion his days of challenging Novak Djokovic on the sport’s biggest stages were over after falling in four sets to the Serb in a scintillating Australian Open semi-final.
“I know you guys (in the media) make it a different case – I get that because you think I’m old and all that – but it’s no problem for me,” Federer said after his 6-1 6-2 3-6 6-3 defeat.
“It doesn’t scare me when I go into a big match against any player who’s in their prime right now.
“It’s disappointing, but at the same time I’m going deep in slams, I’m having great runs.
“Novak right now is a reference for everybody. He’s the only guy that has been able to stop me as of late.”
Djokovic has now beaten Federer in their past four grand slam meetings, including the 2014 and 2015 Wimbledon finals and last year’s US Open decider, and admitted feeling at the peak of his career on Thursday night.
But Federer’s stirring fightback to take the third set after Djokovic’s stunning domination of the first two is only fuelling the Swiss’s belief.
“I have self-confidence. That doesn’t fade away very quickly,” he said.
“I know it’s not easy. I never thought it was easy. But best-of-three (sets), best-of-five … I can run for four or five hours – it’s not a problem.”
Federer is targeting Wimbledon – where he’s already captured seven titles and made a mind-boggling 10 finals – as his best chance to break his grand slam run of outs.
His focus firmly on the grasscourt season, Federer plans to take advantage of his veteran status to limit his 2016 claycourt campaign to an 18th French Open tilt.
The ATP allows players to skip a number of Masters Series events if they have played 600 matches, been on tour for least 12 seasons and have reached age 31.
The former world No.1 has met all of those requirements and, unless he has a change of heart, won’t play in Miami, Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome after contesting upcoming tournaments in Rotterdam, Dubai and Indian Wells.
For any other 35-year-old father of four, the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and US Open in September might be a perfect swansong, but Federer is vowing to return to Melbourne Park in 2017.
“I wish I could have one more chance to play another match here this week, but I don’t,” he said.
“So of course I’m disappointed maybe for parts of my fans and also for myself.
“But I definitely walk away from a place like this and say: ‘I want to come back next year’.
“I want to re-live it again.”
ROGER FEDERER’S GRAND SLAM RUN OF OUTS SINCE WINNING WIMBLEDON IN 2012
2012 US Open: lost in quarter-finals (Tomas Berdych)
2013 Australian Open: lost in semi-finals (Andy Murray)
2013 French Open: lost in quarter-finals (Jo-Wilfried Tsonga)
2013 Wimbledon: lost in second round (Sergiy Stakhovsky)
2013 US Open: lost in fourth round (Tommy Robredo)
2014 Australian Open: lost in semi-finals (Rafael Nadal)
2014 French Open: lost in fourth round (Ernests Gulbis)
2014 Wimbledon: lost in final (Novak Djokovic)
2014 US Open: lost in semi-final (Marin Cilic)
2015 Australian Open: lost in third round (Andreas Seppi)
2015 French Open: lost in quarter-finals (Stan Wawrinka)
2015 Wimbledon: lost in final (Novak Djokovic)
2015 US Open: lost in final (Novak Djokovic)
2016 Australian Open: lost in semi-finals (Novak Djokovic)