Fed­erer won’t guar­an­tee re­turn

The Southland Times - - SPORT - TENNIS

Hav­ing re­claimed his place on Wim­ble­don’s throne and in­deli­bly etched his name in the tour­na­ment’s record books, Roger Fed­erer dan­gled the un­palat­able pos­si­bil­ity that he may never grace its fa­bled lawns again.

Four­teen years af­ter a pony­tailed Swiss star­let first soared into the tennis ether at The All Eng­land Club, Fed­erer re­turned yes­ter­day as a 35-year-old veteran to con­firm his place as the great­est man to play the grass­court slam with a record eighth ti­tle.

The 6-3 6-1 6-4 vic­tory over Marin Cilic was a bru­tal de­mo­li­tion job, as the Croat’s blis­tered feet ren­dered him easy pick­ings.

Yet, hav­ing de­liv­ered a 19th ma­jor ti­tle for his army of fans on Cen­tre Court, Fed­erer ad­mit­ted that his ad­vanc­ing age and last year’s in­jury is­sues meant he could not say for cer­tain that he would be back to de­fend his crown next year.

‘‘I hope that I’m back, but there’s never a guar­an­tee, es­pe­cially not at 35,’’ he said.

Fed­erer’s resur­gence to the game’s sum­mit will go down as one of sport’s most re­mark­able come­back tales.

When he ex­ited Wim­ble­don last year, he spent six months out of tennis through in­jury. Even the great man him­self had doubts as to whether he could ever rekin­dle the magic that had de­liv­ered his last ma­jor ti­tle in 2012.

How­ever, af­ter the doubts were swept away by a sen­sa­tional vic­tory at the Aus­tralian Open in Jan­uary, Fed­erer made a gamechang­ing ca­reer move to skip the clay­court sea­son and fo­cus on his favourite sur­face.

And few calls have ever been vin­di­cated with such a re­sound­ing af­fir­ma­tion.

‘‘I guess you would have laughed if I told you I was go­ing to win two slams this year,’’ he said. ‘‘I also didn’t be­lieve that I was go­ing to win two.

‘‘But, it’s in­cred­i­ble. I don’t know how much longer it’s go­ing to last... But I have just got to al­ways re­mind my­self that health comes first at this point. If I do that, maybe things are ac­tu­ally pos­si­ble I didn’t think were.’’

A lot has changed in the years since Fed­erer clinched his first grand slam tro­phy at Wim­ble­don.

The long hair has gone and the fresh face that snatched the ti­tle in 2003 has been re­placed by the filled-out fea­tures of a tour veteran.

Yet, as he marched to this year’s crown without drop­ping a set, it was clear that the daz­zling ar­ray of shots and sheer, bal­letic bril­liance of tennis’s great­est male player are all still in ev­i­dence.

Hav­ing sur­passed Pete Sam­pras and Wil­liam Ren­shaw, who both had seven ti­tles, Fed­erer has earned his place in the record books at a tour­na­ment whose history is so im­por­tant to him.

‘‘Wim­ble­don was al­ways my favourite tour­na­ment, will al­ways be my favourite tour­na­ment,’’ he said.

‘‘My heroes walked the grounds here and walked the courts here. Be­cause of them, I think I be­came a bet­ter player.

‘‘To make history here at Wim­ble­don re­ally means a lot to me just be­cause of all of that re­ally. It’s that sim­ple.’’

GETTY IM­AGES

Roger Fed­erer con­soles Marin Cilic af­ter the men’s fi­nal.

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