It was over much too soon: 101 minutes. So much so that Roger Federer needed to look at his players’ box — the three generations of Federers there, and his past and present coaches — to sync with the emotional weight of what he had just achieved and let the tears flow.
At 35, he was the Wimbledon champion again. It was a record 19th Grand Slam title for Federer, and a record-breaking eighth at the All England Club.
Federer had made it all look like an afternoon stroll in the Wimbledon park. He defeated first-time Wimbledon finalist Marin Cilic, struggling with a foot blister, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 in the final to win the Championships after five years. He also became the first player since Bjorn Borg in 1974 to win Wimbledon without dropping a set—something that he hadn’t done even at the height of his success at the grass-court Grand Slam.
“To mark history here at Wimbledon really means a lot to me,” Federer said on Sunday. “[But] funny enough, I didn't think that much of it throughout today, throughout the trophy ceremony. I was just happy that I was able to win Wimbledon again, because it's been a long road. It's been tough at times ... but that's how it's supposed to be.”
The final may have been short-lived and bereft of drama, and told none of his struggles to get back to that point. He had last won the title in 2012, beating the home favourite Andy Murray under closed roof. In 2013, he suffered the indignity of losing in the second round to journeyman Sergiy Stakhovsky. Federer pushed Novak Djokovic in the finals in 2014 and 2015 but never quite looked like taking control of proceedings. And last year, he was floored, literally, by Milos Raonic in the semi-final. A tournament he once won five in a row (2003-07), seemed a little beyond him with younger opponents taking charge.
But Federer is a different man this season. Much looser on the court, he’s hitting the ball with greater certainty. And beating Rafael Nadal in an epic five-setter at the Australian Open final has reopened the world of possibilities for Federer and his fans.
He skipped the entire clay season to get his prep perfect for the Big W. He had warmed up with a title win in Halle, his ninth, and looked fresh and ready to go in London. Much looser and relaxed on court, Federer swatted his opponents away. The springy grass accentuates his light-footed grace on tennis, bringing tennis fans from far and near thronging at Wimbledon’s gates.
Even though Federer had to beat Tomas Berdych and Raonic, two men who had beaten him here before, none of the main rivals made it to the final four. Gilles Muller got the better of Nadal 15-13 in the fifth set in the fourth round while Murray and Novak Djokovic’s campaign was cut short by hip and elbow injuries respectively. But it would be difficult to say that any of them would have had a chance against a rejuvenated Federer.
Cilic, a former US Open champion, had played superb, aggressive tennis up until the final. With former Wimbledon semi-finalist Jonas Bjorkman in his corner, the tall Croat presented a more nuanced game and greater will to attack the net. But a foot blister meant that Cilic’s first Wimbledon final became a sordid outing.
Even as he started with intent, Federer suffered from nerves early on. Cilic was looking to push Federer out of court with his hard, heavy hitting. Meanwhile, Federer struggled to get the first serves in and served a double fault each in his first two games. Cilic held a break point in the fourth game, but once Federer was over that bump his wings unfurled to their full glory.
It was clear that Cilic was struggling physically. He called the trainer in the middle of the second set and dissolved into helpless tears.
“My mind was all the time blocked with the pain,” said the 28-year-old. “They did as much as they could,” Cilic said. “Every time I had to do a reaction fast, fast change of movement, I was unable to do that. It was just a feeling that I knew that I cannot give my best on court,” Cilic said, “that I cannot give my best game and my best tennis, at such a big match.”
Across the net was a man who specialises in killing them softly. Federer didn’t once take his eyes off the prize. He kept the show going on his end, whipping his single-handed backhands to perfection to keep the crowd gaping, and interested. By the second set it was clear they didn’t have a fight on their hands, so more of the Federer magic would do. Having hit 23 winners, he finished off the match with an ace down the T.
Boris Becker, in his analysis of the tournament said, “Everybody is younger than him and he finds the way to win easily, and do it consistently on every surface, apart from clay. It's just impossible to fathom. You think, where is he going to go now? Will it be 20 Grand Slams at the US Open?”
There are no miracles this resurrected Federer can’t perform. Maybe he can glide on water.
Published Date: Jul 17, 2017 12:15 pm | Updated Date: Jul 17, 2017 04:08 pm