Wimbledon 2017 – Number eight tastes great for fantastic Federer
Roger Federer became the first-ever eight-time Wimbledon men's singles champion by breezing past Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 in Sunday's final. The Swiss maestro didn't drop a set along the way to taking his tally of Grand Slam titles to 19.
Rafael Nadal has his ten Roland-Garros crowns and now Roger Federer has eight Wimbledon titles to match. By cruising past the Croatian Marin Cilic in an hour and 41 minutes in Sunday's final (6-3, 6-1, 6-4), the Swiss forged out on his own in the hall of fame at the All England Club – no other player has ever won as many singles crowns on the grass at SW19. As if that wasn't enough, the Swiss also happened to increase his Grand Slam haul to 19, extending his own record and adding another page to his place in tennis's history books.
Although he played with his trademark panache and relished the occasion with understandable gusto, Federer would surely be the first to admit that at least some of the shine was taken off the manner of his victory by Cilic's right-foot injury, which also slightly dampened his celebrations. Troubled by severe blisters, the Croat was unable to replicate the sparkling form he had produced throughout the fortnight and faltered both physically and mentally. In tennis terms, these struggles were exemplified on serve: while the 2014 US Open champion had landed 62% of his first serves en route to the final, he allowed the Swiss to take control by making a measly 49% in the first set. Outside the confines of the game, the towering 28-year-old's difficulties were epitomised by the sight of him weeping when being treated by the trainer during the second set. At that point, a retirement seemed imminent.
Yet, in the style of a true champion, determined to fight to the end and not to poop the party, Jonas Bjorkman's charge gritted his teeth, had some fresh bandaging applied to his wounded foot and soldiered on. Ultimately, though, this courageous last stand proved in vain, as the writing was on the wall. The reason: up at the other end, Federer was in his pomp, conjuring up a number of his customary strokes of genius and – unlike his stricken opponent – consistently coming up with the goods on his own delivery (he hit eight aces and won 81% of points on first serve and a remarkable 71% on second serve).
"I can't believe it yet. It's just too much, really"
After firing down one final ace – clocked at 184 km/h – on his second match point, the Basel-born maestro threw his arms to the air with a mixture of relief, delight and incredulity. An eighth Wimbledon crown, clinched five years after number seven, not to mention a 19th Grand Slam triumph, just weeks before he turns 36 (his birthday is on 8 August), and all without dropping a set. "I can't believe it yet. It's just too much, really," he gushed. It was only after catching a glimpse of his four children in the box, where his family had watched on throughout this historic final, that it seemed to truly sink into the oldest man to win Wimbledon. He, too, duly burst into tears – albeit tears of joy.
"It is cruel sometimes," the veteran said of his opponent's injury, "But Marin fought well and is a hero, so congratulations on a wonderful tournament." He then addressed the Croat directly, adding, "You should be really proud of yourself. Sometimes you don't feel great in the final; I hope we can play down the road some better ones." And, on the last day of a tournament in which he seemed in as fine fettle as ever, Federer naturally signed off with a nod to the future: "I hope this wasn't my last match [on Centre Court], I hope I can come back next year and try to defend the title."