NEW YORK --- Roger Federer's rivals weren't exactly writing him off. Not publicly, anyway.
Still, plenty of people were, and he heard them. Federer delivered a response with his fifth consecutive U.S. Open championship and his 13th career Grand Slam title, moving within one of Pete Sampras' record of 14.
The response amounted to this:
Don't think I'm done.
Don't think I'm going away.
Don't think I won't be collecting more of these titles.
His play delivered that message at Flushing Meadows -- particularly in one-sided victories over Novak Djokovic in the semifinals and Andy Murray in the final. Then Federer went ahead and articulated it Tuesday when asked how long he can continue to win major tournaments.
"I have the belief right now that I can do it as long as I'm healthy, really. That's the way I feel. I'm going to believe 'til the end of my tennis days that I probably can win a Grand Slam," he told a small group of reporters at the Empire State Building. "And if it's not the case, or I don't believe in it anymore, then I'll probably retire."
Here's the really bad news for men with designs on winning Grand Slam events: Federer is healthier than ever.
Not only is his bout with mononucleosis a memory, but his extra dedication to taking care of his body is paying dividends.
"I feel so much better physically today than I ever have. ... Maybe this year was difficult, but right now, the day after the U.S. Open, I feel like, 'My God, I'm fresh,' " Federer said.
He mentioned, as he has in the past, that he intends to compete at the 2012 London Olympics -- tennis will be contested at his beloved All England Club -- and beyond.
And why not?
He's only 27, and Federer can be heard to say, "I live and breathe tennis," as he did Tuesday.
"I feel, for a very long time, that I'll always be able to win Wimbledon, always going to be able to win the U.S. Open," Federer said. "The first thing that's probably going to go is the French Open, even though I think that should also not be a problem, you know -- having a shot there -- because I'm such a good all-arounder and I've proven myself so much over the years there."
The French Open -- where he has lost in the finals the past three years -- is the one real gap on his rÃsumÃ.
"It's a great thing going into next year," Federer's part-time coach, Jose Higueras, said of the win Monday night. "It gives him a lot of hope to get ready for next season, and I think it's a great feeling for him."
Might not be the greatest feeling for the rest of the tour, though.