Roger Federer described the successful defence of his Australian Open title as "more surreal" than his triumph in Melbourne last year, when he was coming off a six-month injury layoff.
The 36-year-old Swiss defended a Grand Slam title for the first time since the 2008 US Open by retaining his trophy at Melbourne Park with a five-set win over Marin Cilic on Sunday night.
It landed Federer a record-extending 20th major and he was moved to tears during the trophy ceremony as the magnitude of what he has accomplished dawned on him and the crowd went wild during an extended standing ovation.
“Still a little bit confused that it’s all over and that I was able to do it, reach number 20, number six here, it’s just a lot you know – it’s a lot trying to take it in,” Federer told reporters at Government House in Melbourne on Monday morning.
“Last year I felt more straightforward, it was just disbelief, couldn’t believe it happened, and there I was waking up with a trophy.
“But I don’t know this year it seems more surreal. I can’t believe I was able to defend my title, after all these years that I could do it again. It’s very special. Maybe this one is going to take longer to sink in, I don’t know, this is how it feels right now.”
Federer’s emotional reaction on Sunday has led many to speculate that this might have been his last appearance at the tournament.
“I’d love to come back,” Federer assured on Monday. “I know I forgot to say that during the match, at the end, because I don’t remember what I was saying at the end. Of course I hope I come back again next year.”
Ahead of the Australian Open, Federer had played down his chances of taking home the title and said a 36-year-old shouldn’t be considered the favourite at a Slam.
He breezed through his first six matches, without dropping a set, before going the distance against Cilic.
Asked how his legs were feeling at the end of the fortnight, Federer said: “They’re feeling tired but they’re all good you know. It was a great couple of weeks, I can’t believe it.
“Because I’m not sure how much I really felt like I could defend it, I just felt like it was… again like last year, something was going to come in it’s way, one guy was going to catch fire and I wasn’t going to be able to stop him but look, maybe next year when I do come back I might actually believe I can win it, but then I probably won’t win it.
“So it’s better to stay really relaxed about my chances, especially in my later years on the tour and I think it served me well that I stay more relaxed throughout.”