( dpa )- Roger Federer admits he came to the party too late to salvage a 6-3, 6-2 loss at Indian Wells Masters on Saturday against inspired outsider Mardy Fish.
The 98th-ranked American journeyman who once stood inside the Top 20 during summer 2004 produced the win of his life to reach a final with Serb Novak Djokovic.
"It's a tough result, but what can you do?," said Federer. "It happens sometimes, you know.
"The danger of best-of-three matches is it can be over in no time. Today it felt like a practise match."
Federer, who was cleared to play after a mystery bout of mononucleosis less than a month ago, has been spinning his wheels during 2008, still without a title this season.
But the number-one refused to be bowed by his third defeat in six matches, including the Australian Open semis against Djokovic and a Dubai first round against Andy Murray.
The Swiss said that a walkover on Friday against ailing Tommy Haas did not help his preparation.
"I was a little bit deflated yesterday, I was ready to play against Tommy. It would have really given me great rhythm if I were to win against him and come into have met him and come into the semis.
"Maybe during the match today you could feel that, but it's not an excuse. Mardy played incredibly well today."
Federer will head shortly for the other side of the US where the Miami Masters begins at midweek.
With an 8-3 record this season, the 26-year-old knows that the time is now to rev up his game. "I thought it was very good this week, I'm happy with it. But today it's hard to judge.
"All in all, I'm happy the way this week has been going for me. The walkover is an awkward situation, but you have to take them when they come around.
"A semi-final to start off with at the first Masters Series is a good thing again, and I hope I can go from here and win in Miami and on to clay.
"I feel I've got the matches in I really wanted, you know. So I feel better than still 10 days ago, that's for sure."