‘Superhuman, timeless’: the Hill’s verdict on champion
With the lack of a Briton in the men’s final, a metaphorical Swiss flag flew over a highly partisan Henman Hill. Love flowed for Roger Federer, the honorary national treasure who calls Wimbledon home and was making his 19th appearance in SW19 since his first, with pony tail and beard, in 1999.
“Čilić,” said Michael McIntyre, the comedian, when asked who he would be supporting. “Yes, he’s playing some Swiss guy, isn’t he?”, he said, before adding “Go, Federer”.
At 35 years and 342 days, Federer is the oldest to win the men’s singles in the open era, and the first since Björn Borg 41 years ago, to win without losing a set in the fortnight. Records give him motivation and inspiration, he has said, and they fired-up the fans, too.
“Brilliant”, “awesome”, “phenomenal”, “a machine” were some of the breathless descriptions from those crowded on to Henman Hill to watch on the big screen.
“Superhuman, that’s the word” enthused Italian-born Shannon Santangelo. “I mean, he’s even got two sets of twins”. Her boyfriend, Nick Petrie, decided on “timeless”, though he was Swiss in his neutrality. “I just want to see a really good game,” he said.
In an Andy Murray-Federer faceoff, the Scot would have claimed most allegiance. “You’ve got to be patriotic,” said Ann Farmer, from Halstead, Essex, relieved it wasn’t a choice. “But Federer is awesome. It’s his drive, his passion. He is a phenomenal tennis player.” Her friend Terri Ince glanced around. “You might as well put everyone down for Federer,” she deduced.
Fans of Marin Čilić were thin on the ground. The Wimbledon Channel, the championship’s TV station, found two – largely because one of them was wearing a Croatian team football shirt. “We can make a lot of noise,” he joked. They would have to. “We saw one in the queue, but he was afraid to say it too loudly as he was surrounded by Federer fans,” said Santangelo.