Roger Federer's future as a Grand Slam contender is far from over.
The 17-time Slam winner wanted the Centre Court crowd at Wimbledon to know that. After losing to Novak Djokovic 7-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-3, Federer told his fans Sunday from London, via ESPN broadcast, "I am still very hungry and motivated to keep playing."
It was as if Federer, 33, needed to clear the air and provide an answer before members of the media started asking the questions: "Was this his last chance? Can he win another Slam?"
The answers are: No and yes.
Federer reached the finals at Wimbledon for the second consecutive year. Many thought 2014 was his last chance after he lost a heart-breaking five-setter to Djokovic. Federer shed a tear as he watched Djokovic accept the winning trophy.
That single tear signaled the end to some. But not for others.
Chris Chase, of USA Today's For the Win, noted that:
Federer famously cried after losing the 2009 Australian Open final to Rafael Nadal and many people took it as a sign that he was finished. Six months later, he had won the French Open and Wimbledon, back to back, and returned to No. 1 in the rankings. Yes, Federer will be 33 in a month. But don’t make the same mistake this time. This is a tear of instant sorrow, not lost, last chances.
At the 2014 U.S. Open, Federer reached the semifinals but missed a golden opportunity to win another Slam. He lost to first-time Grand Slam finalist Marin Cilic, who went on to beat Kei Nishikori, also playing in his first Slam final.
In the post-match press conference, BBC Sport's Russell Fuller asked Federer if a final without him, Djokovic, Nadal or Andy Murray meant some sort of sea change. He replied: "You create your stories. You said the same in Australia, everybody; and then we know what happened at the French Open final, Wimbledon final. But this is another chance for you guys, you know. So you should write what you want. I don't think so, but..."
It's not like Federer has fallen out of the Top 20. He's no has-been who lingers on the ATP Tour, one who depends on wild cards to gain entrance to Slams.
He's ranked No. 2 and has a comfortable points lead over No. 3, Murray. Federer beat Murray in straight sets in the semifinals at Wimbledon.
Nadal, who holds a 23-10 edge in the head-to-head series against Federer, is struggling. Stan Wawrinka, ranked No. 4, could come through a draw and take out anybody—including Djokovic—leaving Federer to take on his compatriot in a Slam final. Federer has a commanding 16-3 record against Wawrinka.
Outside of Nadal on clay, Djokovic presents the worst matchup for Federer in Grand Slam finals. The Serbian evened his head-to-head record against Federer at 20-20 on Sunday.
This is clearly the Djokovic era. He's won two Grand Slams and reached the final at every major this season. Just like when Federer dominated the ATP, Djokovic won't win them all. That leaves whom?
Those so-called young guns—such as Nick Kyrgios, Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic—have yet to prove that they can make it to a Slam final, let alone win one. Nishikori appears to be on an accelerated plan to run his body into the ground.
Career also-rans, Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Ferrer, look more past prime than Federer.
Sure, Federer's been stuck at 17 Slams since 2012. Since then, he's added two sons to his family but no Slam trophies. Yet you just can't count him out. As long as he remains healthy and motivated, Federer can win another of the big four events.
So what might motivate a man who already has the record for most Grand Slams? How about keeping that record.
Earlier this year, Federer told AP sports writer Rachel Cohen (via Yahoo Sports) that Nadal, who has 14 Slam titles, could easily catch him.
''If he wins the French Open a few more times and I don't win any more, then clearly he can catch me very quickly." About Djokovic and Nadal, Federer told Cohen, "I hope to make it more difficult for them."
Tennis great Bjorn Borg, who retired at the early age of 26, after winning 11 Grand Slams, told the Daily Mail that he thinks Federer will play one more year and then call it quits. Borg tried unsuccessfully to return to the game in the 1990s. Federer, who admitted to considering retirement after the Swiss won the Davis Cup, seeks to avoid the same mistake.
"I don't want to retire and then maybe come back again," Federer told Graham Caygill of the National.
Right now, there's no reason for Federer to retire. He remains one of the best in the game. He will be among the top contenders for the 2015 U.S. Open on August 31 and any Grand Slam in the near future.