Eight and great – it’s Federer’s year again
Swiss surpasses Sampras record in one-sided final Opponent reduced to tears by pain from blistered foot
Roger Federer cemented his reputation as the greatest player to ever grace his sport by lifting a record eighth Wimbledon title with a one-sided victory over Marin Čilić, whose thin hopes of an upset were popped by a blister that troubled his movement and tormented his mind.
In an afternoon of sustained emotions and tears from both players, Federer raced through the match in one hour and 41 minutes and dropped just eight games in a 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 procession.
It wasn’t supposed to be this easy given that the 6ft 6in Čilić was in the form of his life. Few knew, however, that he had developed a huge blister on his foot in his semi-final match against Sam Querrey.
Despite receiving treatment on his foot for 30 hours before the match, the pain and frustration of it eventually reduced him to tears. “It was a culmination of emotions because I knew how much it took for me to get here,” the Croatian said after the match. “I was just feeling that I knew I couldn’t give my best on the court.”
He said the defeat had been devastating, that “emotionally I knew on such a big day I am unable to play my best tennis”.
Čilić added: “I tried to block my thoughts. I tried to block the pain. But even in the warm-up I was testing my movement going side to side and I was too slow.”
This victory meant that Federer, who turns 36 next month, surpassed the bigserving American “Pistol” Pete Sampras and the great Victorian-era William Renshaw, who each claimed seven Wimbledon titles. Federer also became the first man to win Wimbledon without dropping a set since Björn Borg in 1976.
“It is very special to win eight titles,” said Federer. “Wimbledon was always my favourite tournament, and will always be my favourite tournament. My heroes walked the grounds here. Because of them, I think I became a better player.
“And number eight obviously means a lot to me because to be part of Wimbledon history is truly amazing.”
What made this victory more remarkable was that the era when Federer used his racket like a Stradivarius – and the American writer David Foster Wallace compared watching him to a religious experience – had last year appeared to be over for good.
He was approaching his 35th birthday. He had not won a grand slam since 2012. And, worse still, he was struggling with a knee injury, sustained while running a bath for his twin daughters, which forced him out of the game for five months.
But the thousands walking to the All England club for yesterday’s final understood that Federer circa 2017 was a player reborn, having won the Australian Open in January and 32 of his 34 matches this year.
And so it proved as he dismissed a hobbling Čilić with minimal fuss.
Federer did not initially sense anything was wrong with the giant across the net. Indeed, even though it was his 11th Wimbledon final, it could have been the first given his early nerves. He served two fidgety double faults in the opening two games and also faced break point at 2-2.
The 15,000-strong crowd in Centre Court held its breath. Yet Federer survived and in the next game broke his opponent before running away with the first set.
Čilić’s movement was increasingly tortured, and at 3-0 down in the second set he called for the trainer, who bandaged him up. It did little good. In a blur he was two sets down and staring into the abyss.
As the third set began, and the clouds were finally burnt off by the sun, Čilić tried to mix things up by serving and volleying. But such was the whip and dip in Federer’s backhand return he was having to play his volleys off his bootlaces.
At this point there was only going to be one winner. And by the time Čilić found himself break point down at 3-3, the strained cries of “C’mon Marin!” were growing in number and intensity. Most probably still wanted Federer to win – but they also wanted more tennis. Nonetheless a decisive break soon arrived, along with this most precious of victories.
Afterwards Federer waved to his four children, who were transfixed by the applause. As the scale of his achievement dawned on him, Federer too shed tears as he waited to receive the trophy.
The good news for us – if not his rivals – is that Federer intends to be back in 2018. “I still love to play and my wife’s totally fine with it,” he added, smiling. “She’s my number one supporter. She’s amazing.”
The tennis gods have been kind to Federer at Wimbledon this year. Andy Murray hobbled out with a hip problem. Novak Djokovic was given the elbow by an inflamed joint. And his greatest nemesis, Rafael Nadal, was sunk by Gilles Müller, who played the best tennis of his career. But the evidence of this fortnight suggests Federer would have been tough to topple whoever was on the other side of the net.
And while this was his 19th grand slam victory, another record, few would bet against more coming his way. Sport, page 1
Above: Roger Federer celebrates winning a record eighth Wimbledon championship, watched by his family, right. Marin Čilić, left, had to seek medical treatment during the match