Throughout the US Open, Roger Federer continued to insist he felt physically fine, even as the eye test suggested otherwise.
For as many times as he said his spotty play wasn't about his nagging back injury or the wear and tear of a long season, Federer didn't have the same zip he'd had earlier in the year; he wasn't moving as fluidly or as purposefully, wasn't finishing his shots with the same snap, wasn't hitting over his backhand with as much force, wasn't serving with as much precision or pop.
Finally, after putting forth a pretty lackluster performance and losing to Juan Martin del Potro in the quarterfinals Wednesday night, Federer admitted he hasn't been physically right, and that his mental game has suffered for it.
"I don't want to say I was in negative mindset, but I knew going in that I'm not in a safe place," he told reporters after the match. "Might have depended too much on my opponent, and I don't like that feeling. I had it throughout the tournament, and I just felt that way every single match I went into.
"I didn't have that feeling at Wimbledon or at the Australian Open, and that's why rightfully so I'm out of this tournament, because I wasn't good enough in my mind, in my body, and in my game. If you're missing all three, it's going to be tough."
Federer would have met Rafael Nadal in the semifinals if he'd won, with a chance to make his third Slam final of the year and take over the No. 1 ranking. He's owned Nadal on hard courts this season, but given his struggles in New York, he wouldn't have felt too confident in that matchup even if he'd managed to beat Del Potro.
"Juan Martin deserves it more," he said. "I feel I have no place in the semis and he will have a better chance to beat Rafa, to be honest. The way I played or playing right now, it's not good enough in my opinion to win this tournament. It's better I'm out and somebody else gets a chance to do better than me."
If there's a silver lining for Federer in defeat, it's that he'll get a slightly longer break than he would have otherwise before he picks things back up at the Laver Cup at the end of September and plays the Shanghai Masters in mid-October.
"I have a rest now, so that's good," he said. "That's actually the thing when I walked off the court, I was, like, 'Finally, I can rest.' Because I'm tired. I put a lot into it. I was not sure I could play, to be honest, so I'm happy I get a rest now."