FED­ERER ADDSMORE FIRSTS IN 2017 RE­VIVAL

Swiss is first man to win 8Wim­ble­dons, 19 Grand Slam ti­tles

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORT - San­dra Harwitt Spe­cial for USA TO­DAY Sports

It might seem cliché to say what a dif­fer­ence a year makes, but when it comes to Roger Fed­erer, it can’t be said in any other way.

Last year at al­most 35, Fed­erer left Wimbledon a semi­fi­nal­ist, with a knee in­jury tak­ing its toll. It was par­tic­u­larly no­table as the Swiss mas­ter had never be­fore ex­pe­ri­enced a se­ri­ous phys­i­cal prob­lem in his long ten­nis ca­reer.

When Fed­erer an­nounced he was end­ing his sea­son at that junc­ture, many wor­ried they had seen the last of the man of­ten de­clared the great­est of all time. Or, at the very least, if he re­turned he might do so as a shadow of his for­mer self.

The les­son learned: Never un­der­es­ti­mate Roger Fed­erer.

Not only did he re­turn to the courts, he did so with a vengeance. Hav­ing not played a tour­na­ment in six months, Fed­erer sashayed into the Aus­tralian Open in Jan­uary and won an 18th Grand Slam tour­na­ment ti­tle.

Now, for the first time since 2009, he has won two Grand Slam tro­phies in a year as he breezed through Wimbledon with­out the loss of a set.

On Sunday, Fed­erer be­came the first man in ten­nis his­tory to win eight Wimbledon ti­tles when he dom­i­nated in­jured Marin Cilic of Croa­tia 6- 3, 6- 1, 6- 4 in the fi­nal.

“I’m in­cred­i­bly sur­prised how well this year is go­ing, how well I’m feel­ing, how things are turn­ing out to be on the courts, how I’m man­ag­ing tougher sit­u­a­tions, wheremy level of play is on a daily ba­sis,” he said.

While he ad­mit­ted mak­ing his­tory at Wimbledon is spe­cial, he also ac­knowl­edged he never dreamed of this kind of suc­cess as a ten­nis- play­ing child.

“Win­ning eight is not some­thing you can ever aim for, in my opin­ion,” Fed­erer said. “If you do, you must have so much tal­ent and par­ents and the coaches that push you from the age of 3 on, who think you’re like a project.

“I was not that kid. I was just re­ally a nor­mal guy grow­ing up in Basel, hop­ing to make a ca­reer on the tour. I guess I dreamed, I be­lieved and re­ally hoped that I could ac­tu­ally, maybe re­ally do it, make it real.”

At 35 years, 342 days, Fed­erer is the old­est man in the Open era

to win the Wimbledon ti­tle. He cap­tured the match in per­fect style by serv­ing up an ace on his sec­ond match point.

No other man in his­tory has won 19 Grand Slam ti­tles. He joins He­len Wills Moody on the list of all- time Grand Slam cham­pi­ons with 19 tro­phies. Stand­ing be­tween Fed­erer and the top of that list is St­effi Graf with 22, Ser­ena Wil­liams with 23 and Mar­garet Court with 24.

He is the third man to win mul­ti­ple Grand Slam ti­tles in the Open era with­out drop­ping a set. The Swiss player also per­formed that feat when win­ning the 2007 Aus­tralian Open.

Bjorn Borg won atWim­ble­don in 1976 and the French Open in 1978 and ’ 80 with­out los­ing a set. Rafael Nadal cap­tured the French Open with­out drop­ping a set in 2008, ’ 10 and ’ 17.

Dur­ing the 1- hour, 41- minute fi­nal, Fed­erer saved the one break point he faced, which came at 30- 40 in the fourth game of the first set. From there, the match was his to own.

Cilic, the 2014 U. S. Open cham­pion, could never find his range in the match and con­stantly hit serves, fore­hands and back­hands be­yond the bound­aries of the court. He was treated for a blis­ter on his left foot dur­ing the changeover be­tween the sec­ond and third sets.

By the time he fell be­hind 3- 6, 0- 3, the Croat be­came emo­tional, dis­solv­ing into tears dur­ing the changeover. He con­sulted with a tour­na­ment doc­tor and trainer, then sat with a towel over his head, even af­ter um­pire Damien Dum­sois called time. The Cen­tre Court crowd was si­lent, wait­ing to see if Cilic would con­tinue to play. As some­one who de­fines him­self by not walk­ing away from a chal­lenge, Cilic didn’t give up.

“I gave my best, and that’s all I could do,” a teary- eyed Cilic said to the crowd. “I’ve had an amaz­ing jour­ney here and played the best ten­nis ofmy life.”

On the court, Fed­erer gave his thank you speech, al­most as if this could be his fi­nal time at Wimbledon. That, how­ever, isn’t how he’s think­ing. A month away from his 36th birth­day, Fed­erer be­lieves he’ll be back next year. But af­ter the knee in­jury knocked him out last sea­son, he knows there’s no guar­an­tees.

In his mind, how­ever, it’s pos­si­ble if luck is on his side he could be play­ing on Cen­tre Court when he’s 40. “I love play­ing the big stages still,” he said. “I don’t mind the prac­tice. I don’tmind the travel. Be­cause I’m play­ing a lit­tle less … I feel like I’m work­ing part time these days, al­most, which is a great feel­ing.”

SU­SAN MULLANE, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Roger Fed­erer, above, is the third man to win mul­ti­ple Grand Slam ti­tles in the Open era with­out drop­ping a set, join­ing Bjorn Borg and Rafael Nadal.

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