USA TODAY International Edition
FEDERER ADDS MORE FIRSTS IN 2017 REVIVAL
Swiss is first man to win 8 Wimbledons, 19 Grand Slams
WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND 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, where my level of play is on a daily basis,” he said, barely taking a breath.
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 at Wimbledon 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 3040 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 of my 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 entirely possible if luck is on his side that he could be playing Centre Court when he’s 40.
“I love playing the big stages still,” he said. “I don’t mind the practice. I don’t mind 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.”