Yet two weeks later he was picking up his sixth Australian Open victory and his 20th Grand Slam.
Roger Federer saw off Marin Cilic in five sets to defend the title he won last year but luck was certainly on his side.
The Swiss veteran was fortunate not to have to play rival Rafael Nadal with the Spaniard withdrawing through injury in his quarter-final clash with Cilic.
Federer received further good fortunes in his own semi-final when South Korean Chung Hyeon retired in the second set.
And the 36-year-old admits that was a huge turning point in his tournament where he finally started to believe he could get to a prestigious 20 Grand Slam win.
“It’s because my face doesn’t start twitching when I’m nervous but it’s not that simple, its an emotional sport we live in,” Federer told ESPN Tennis when discussing how he kept his nerve throughout the tournament.
“Sport in general is an emotional thing and I was just not sure how this final was going to be played.
“I had a lot of question marks in my head. Was this going to be my last chance to ever get to 20? Maybe. SO close yet so far.
“I think all of this stuff I had to digest in some way because I don’t really remember taking the plane at the end of December last year to Australia thinking ‘I’m going to come back with 20’.
“I never really thought that and then when all of a sudden Hyeon retired in the semis it was real. It was like ‘I could maybe get to 20.’
“And I’m surprised so I think these emotions just took me some time to understand.”
Federer closed the gap on world No 1 Rafael Nadal to 155 points in the world rankings.