Federer, a giant through the ages, wins again … at 35
Tennis sensation triumphs at Wimbledon for the eighth time
WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND — Wimbledon ended in a muddle.
Momentously, Roger Federer surfed another crest in a staggering tennis career.
Lamentably, he did so while his giant opponent reeled with one of the lousiest little things in all of human life: a foot blister.
Momentously, Federer, who won Wimbledon at 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27 and 30, won it again Sunday at 35.
The triumph further crammed his name into a record book where it appears almost as rampantly as in a biography.
Lamentably, it came with a 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 match that quickly deflated and then careened until Marin Cilic got to a changeover in the second set and sobbed.
Momentously, Federer snared a male-record eighth Wimbledon singles title, became the oldest Wimbledon champion of the Open Era, became the oldest Grand Slam champion since Ken Rosewall in 1972 and said, “My heroes walked the grounds here and walked the courts here.”
Lamentably, Cilic came off two recent-years Grand Slam matches with Federer in which Cilic was the better player all told, and wound up saying he wept over “a feeling that I knew that I cannot give my best on the court, that I cannot give my best game and my best tennis, especially at this stage of my career, at such a big match.”
And: “I know how much it took for me to get here.”
Federer corralled a record 19th Grand Slam title, took a second Grand Slam this season and arranged for an arrival in New York in late August with a stunning yet realistic chance at 20 — which would have seemed far-fetched only six months ago.
Yet did so with a muted response to his 114-m.p.h. ace up the middle on match point, for the outcome long since had congealed. What confusion. Even Centre Court stopped its customary worrying for Federer and began to try to bolster the helpless Cilic.
“I want to thank the physios here,” Cilic said with his reputed grace, calling them by first names.
“They helped. The last 30 hours, they were just constantly almost with me.
“They did as much as they could, but unfortunately I still feel the pain.
“Every time I had to do a reaction fast, fast change of movement, I was unable to do that.”
But then, it fit that this Wimbledon would go out limping, for it had staged a two-week limp-fest, especially on the male end.
It became an epitome of the hardness of the game upon the human frame.
Seven players retired in firstround matches, one in the second round, one in the third, one in the quarter-finals.
Two giants, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, looked hurt enough that their potential U.S. Open participation already lurks in question.
Yet atop the bale of bandages stood a 35-year-old global star.
“Winning eight is not something you can ever aim for, in my opinion,” he said.
“If you do, I don’t know, you must have so much talent and parents and the coaches that push you from the age of three on, who think you’re like a project.
“I was not that kid. I was really just a normal guy growing up in Basel (Switzerland), hoping to make a career on the tennis tour.
“I guess I dreamed, I believed, and really hoped that I could actually maybe really do it, you know, to make it real.”
A dandy point came in Cilic’s service game at 2-2 and love-15 in the first set, when both players wound up near the net, Cilic played a cunning backhand cross to the doubles line, and Federer retrieved that to direct it into the open court to rousing applause.
A Federer backhand drop shot in the seventh game seemed to yearn for a string quartet at courtside.
It fluttered neatly over the net and sat down to accept its applause.
At 3-5, 30-all, with Cilic serving, two Federer backhands in a row seemed so rocket-launched that the crowd gasped.
Roger Federer celebrates with the trophy after beating Marin Cilic in the men’s singles final at Wimbledon.