Roger Federer lost to Juan Martin del Potro for the second time in three weeks when he went down to the Argentine 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-3 in his last round-robin match here at the ATP World Tour finals in a result that ensures del Potro will join Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in Sunday's semifinals.
No champion enjoys losing but Federer was determined not to get upset by this one or by the fact that, unlike Murray and Djokovic, he will be playing three consecutive days while they have had a day off.
"No, no problems," he said when asked about his physical condition. "I'm not worried. It's important to move on right now. Obviously I'm excited to be in the semis and hopefully play a good match."
Having admitted that it was his inability to make much impression of the Argentine's huge serve that caused his downfall, Federer went on to talk about the mental aspects of playing in a situation where winning is not paramount but the result could have a bearing on who you play in the semifinal.
"Yeah, I mean, it does cross my mind," Federer admitted. " I don't think it really affects you. But, of course, we're human. We sort of know the scenarios but I try not to know too much about it going in. It's true sometimes your mind plays tricks on you. You're sitting on change of ends, thinking about all sorts of crazy stuff. That's any match, not just in round-robin matches here at the World Tour Finals. I guess if I could have lost one match this season, this was the one."
Then Federer revealed that he was sad for David Ferrer that he lost because that eliminated the Spaniard who had played so well in winning the ATP Masters 1000 title in Paris last week.
"I wanted to give him a chance and give myself the best possible preparation for the semis, too. Not that I prefer David over Juan Martin no, not at all. I just think David's had a stellar season. I'm more disappointed for him than I am about losing today to be quite honest."
You could say that Federer can afford to be kind to a player he will not have to play again this year but, taking Winston Churchill's quote to a different level, Federer managed to be magnanimous in defeat about a future opponent whereas Britain's wartime Prime Minister suggested, "In defeat defiance; in victory magnanimity." The Swiss manages to be magnanimous in both.
When Federer was asked about Murray, a player he has taken the odd jab at in the past, he surprised the British media by launching into an extensive accolade. Having admitted that "he was just better than me" in the Olympic final, Roger added, "He set himself a goal and his drive was so strong at the end that it carried him through. I tried to mix things up but I couldn't. He just played great tennis. Andy did great. I always hoped he would have a reaction like this (winning the Olympics and the US Open), to be quite honest, even though it cost me a gold medal.
"I was a bit disappointed at his reaction after those Australian Open finals. When I beat him there he went on a bad spell through Rotterdam, Indian Well and Miami. Instead of taking positives out of a great tournament, because he played great tennis, he took the negatives out of it. I don't think he did that mistake again after losing to me at Wimbledon this year. That's the sign of a champion. Now he's up there and he will be for a very long time."
Wow! This is the man Federer may find himself facing across the net in the next two days. No wonder he just won the ATP Sportsmanship Award again.