No plans to retire but GOAT looks done
When Roger Federer next tries to win another major, in France or at Wimbledon, he will be close to 39-years-old.
Moving the dial from 20 to 21 titles is now looking not so much unlikely, as nigh on impossible.
The Swiss, as great a player ever to have waved a tennis racquet, looks done.
Novak Djokovic at almost six years younger, was cast in the role of executioner on Rod Laver Arena as Federer noticeably slipped a rung, probably two.
And against the Serb, now closing in on his eighth Australian Open, that is not enough, Djokovic the winner 7-6 (1), 6-4, 6-3 and Federer is gone from the Australian Open 2020.
The slips have been incremental this fortnight, unforced errors, a miraculous midnight turnaround against John Millman and seven match points saved against Tennys Sandgren (a befuddling so intense that Fed lost count, thinking it was about three).
Then the injury - something to do with his groin allegedly and dismissed by the Swiss as just pain and problems - but which led him to practice behind closed doors before the semi-final.
"Respect to Roger for coming out tonight," Djokovic said.
"He was obviously hurt and was not even close to his best in terms of movement."
The question is now what drives the Swiss to play and when will he call it a day?
Federer said he had no plans to retire, but also couldn't promise we hadn't seen the last of him at Melbourne Park.
"No idea," he said when asked if this was his last Australian Open.
"Same as last year. You never know what the future holds. But especially my age, you don't know.
"I'm confident. I'm happy how I'm feeling, to be honest. I got through a good, nice training block. From that standpoint, we'll see how the year goes, how everything is with the family.
"We'll go from there. Of course, I hope to be back.
"No plans to retire."
Ken Rosewall was a spring chicken by comparison when he won the 1972 Australian Open a month after turning 37, the oldest man to win a major. If it is Federer's goal to surpass Rosewall, it is one he is unlikely to make.
There is though, one pot missing from his trophy cabinet, Olympic gold in singles. He picked up doubles gold in Beijing but if this is what is pushing him, and the Olympics is a now a major driver for all top tennis pros, then Tokyo in July opens the door.
Tennis greats have played in their dotage, the American Pancho Gonzalez, arguably the greatest player of the sport's professional days in the 1950s, retired when he was 45 but is an exception and his title winning days were mostly way behind him.
Djokovic suggested this week that Federer's love of playing the big matches and the big rivalries is more than a spur.
"He's probably going to confirm that that's probably the biggest reason why he's still competing, to be able to compete at the grand slams against the best players in the world," he said.
Federer never gives the impression of needing to be loved publicly and has been building a charitable legacy for several years and has money to put Croesus to shame.
He has two sets of youngish twins who often travel with him and will have a full and demanding life in every respect.
But he enjoys playing still, deeply. For every duffed shot against Djokovic - and there were lots - there were moments of effortless grace and style as always.
It is a wholly opposite sphere of course but at when at end of the classic TV series Breaking Bad, the drug making alchemist Walter White was asked why he had carried on in the face of countless easy get-outs.
"I did it for me. I liked it, I was good at it. And I was alive," he said simply.
It is not far-fetched at all to suggest tennis has made Federer feel that way too. Because for countless millions of people around the world, he has done the same for us.