Roger Federer bowed out of Wimbledon on a defiant note, warning his critics he is not finished with tennis by a long way.
The 28-year-old six-time Wimbledon champion overcame a first-week wobble but was finally toppled by Czech world number 13 Tomas Berdych in the quarter-finals.
A 6-4 3-6 6-1 6-4 defeat left his main rivals in the top four to battle it out for his crown, not that he will be around to witness Sunday’s final as he has brought forward his family holiday.
After failing to also get past the quarter-finals of the French Open, Federer has clearly lost his air of invincibility but he insists he has no intention of calling time on his career.
“After being great, some people are just waiting to take you down,” he said. “But that’s part of it. I don’t want to take the fun away from me playing and enjoying the tour.
“I haven’t enjoyed the tour more than right now, with my kids and Mirka. We love the travelling.
“It is tough at times but we have so many great fans around the world. People love to see me and I love to play in all the arenas around the world and I hope I can do it for many more years to come.
“Critics will join me along the way – maybe more than in the past – but I’ll still enjoy my time on tour.”
After reaching the last seven finals, Wimbledon will be a strange place this weekend without the Swiss master but he was able to draw encouragement from his early exit.
“It’s been an amazing run for me but it’s still been seven years that I’ve always reached the quarters of a slam so it’s not been that bad,” he said.
“I just have to make sure I keep that up and go further.”
Federer took some of the shine off the finest win of Berdych’s career by revealing he has been struggling with back and knee injuries since his opening five-set win over Alejandro Falla and was less than fulsome in his praise for his conqueror.
“It’s disappointing to go out in the quarter-finals but I could have gone out in the first round,” he said.
“I had my chances but either I messed them up or Tomas played well. It was a frustrating match.
“After my first match my leg started hurting and then my back. It was frustrating not being able to play completely freely but my opponent was able to push me harder and further. He played a solid match.”
Berdych, 24, who is the first Czech to reach the semi-finals of the Wimbledon men’s singles since Ivan Lendl 20 years ago, said he had no knowledge of Federer’s injuries and refused to be drawn on his less-than-charitable comments.
“I don’t know if he was just looking for some excuses after the match or something like that,” he said.
“I think he was 100% ready so maybe right now he’s getting some more troubles with his health.
“I respect him for what he has achieved. He has his reason for what he said and I’ll just leave it with him.”
Berdych’s semi-final opponent tomorrow will be third seed Novak Djokovic, who played his best tennis of the tournament to defeat surprise quarter-finalist Yen-Hsun Lu, of Taiwan, 6-3 6-2 6-2.
Djokovic, who last reached the semi-finals in 2007, took the opportunity to pay tribute to the fallen champion.
“Federer is the best player that ever played this game,” he said. “And still to be able to play this way after he has won so many Grand Slams is just great. You have to give him credit for everything he has done.
“So it’s normal for him to lose. You have to congratulate Berdych for playing that well.”