Melbourne - Roger Federer has said he was encouraged by his start to the new season but deeply regretted missing out on an all-Swiss final after Rafael Nadal sent him crashing in the semis on Friday.
Federer, mentored by Stefan Edberg and wielding a bigger racquet, showed vintage form in the tournament but it was a familiar story against Nadal, who won 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 6-3.
The defeat robbed Federer of a rare chance to play fellow countryman Stanislas Wawrinka in a Grand Slam final, where he would have had a great chance of expanding his record tally of 17 major titles.
His sixth straight Grand Slam loss to Nadal also pushes him below Wawrinka in the world rankings, putting an end to his 13-year reign as Switzerland's number one.
Federer cut a deflated figure after the match, but he said he was satisfied with his fortnight's work at the Australian Open -- and insisted his best tennis was still to come.
"It's very encouraging, no doubt. I wish I could have won tonight and then given an all-Swiss final. That's something I'll regret for a long time," he said.
"But then again it was a great start to the season for me. It would have been nice to win in Brisbane (he lost to Lleyton Hewitt in the final) and it would have been nice to win here tonight, but you can't have it all.
"I think this is a very good start to the season for me overall. I played some really good tennis here."
The 32-year-old added: "I still feel my best tennis is only ahead of me right now. So I'm looking forward to the next couple of months, how they're going to play out for me, and hopefully by April I feel like I'm going to be at 100 percent again."
Federer said he tried to implement a few suggestions from Edberg in the semi-final but that the fast and powerful Nadal simply "neutralised" them.
"I tried a few things. Then again I think Rafa does a good job of neutralising you," he said.
"The problem was because I wasn't getting into enough service games, you're not going to try out a crazy amount of things on your own service games.
"There you need to play tough and aggressive and you just have to be solid. So I guess at times I couldn't quite do what I wanted to do, but that's because of Rafa."
It was Federer's fourth straight defeat in semi-finals at the Australian Open and his 11th consecutive appearance in the Melbourne last four.