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

The Guardian - - NEWS - Sean In­gle

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

Main pho­to­graph: Clive Brun­skill/ Getty Im­ages

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

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