He’s about to be 36, but that’s not a problem for Roger Federer. But it’s a problem for everyone else at the top of men’s tennis because after all these years – 17 of them – he’s still winning. The Swiss sorcerer continued to confound the very best in tennis winning a second Grand Slam of 2017, sweeping past Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 to collect a record 8th Wimbledon title and 19th overall slam.
The Australian Open title was a fairytale. Then he proved it was no fluke winning Indian Wells and Miami. And now he runs through a stacked Wimbledon field without dropping a single set, and losing serve only four times.
How can this be? How does this happen? How can someone return after six months off the tour, fighting Father time, fighting the return of his nemesis Nadal, and perform as well as ever?
There just isn’t a good explanation for this one. Instead, you just savour it. You enjoy the ride.
“It is very special. Wimbledon will always be my favorite tournament,” Federer said following the 1-hour, 41-minute destruction. “My heroes walked the grounds here and walked the courts here. Because of them, I think I became a better player, too. To make history here at Wimbledon really means a lot to me just because of all of that really.
The match began a little rocky with both players on edge on an overcast day. Cilic extricated himself from a 15-30 right hole out of the gate. Federer did the same in his first service game.
Then, in a thunderbolt, Federer took charge. Cilic held a break chance in the fourth game at 30-40. Cilic missed a return and that was it. Thirty minutes later Cilic was sobbing down 6-3, 3-0 on the most famous court in the world. He was done-in by a man seven years his elder.
Cilic, who later confirmed he had blister issues from the Sam Querrey win, gathered himself, wiped away the tears and tried to make a match of it. But Federer was in full flight, ripping off love games like you rip open presents on your birthday.
With his emotions in check, and the outcome all but a certainty, Cilic played better in the third. But a late break sealed it and for the 8th time Federer finished the final Sunday on top at Wimbledon.
“I was just so happy that I was able to win here again because it’s been a long road, tough at times, but that’s how it’s supposed to be,” Federer added. “So to be Wimbledon champion for an entire year now is something I can’t wait to savour and just enjoy. It was super special. To be part of Wimbledon history is truly amazing.”
Federer didn’t drop serve in the final and only lost it four times all tournament. And Cilic could only manage just one break chance whereas Federer converted on 5 of his 10. While Federer cruised on his serve, Cilic really struggled with only 5 aces to Federer’s 8 and he won just 65% on first, 39% on second. Horrible numbers but a guy like him.
Unfortunately for Cilic, the 28-year-old said the blister prevented him from mounting a real challenge to Federer. A missed opportunity he knew, one that caused the emotional breakdown we all witnessed. But Marin showed that he’ll be a contender for some time.
“It was definitely an unfortunate day for it to happen. I got a really bad blister. I even felt it in the match with Sam Querrey in the semis. Fluid just came down under my callous in the foot,” said Cilic. “I want to thank the physios here. They helped. They were almost constantly with me the past 30 hours. They did as much as they could, but unfortunately I still felt the pain. Every time I had to do a fast reaction or fast change of movement, I was unable to do that.
“It was obviously very tough emotionally because I know how much I went through the last few months in preparation for everything. It was also tough because of my own team. They did so much for me. I just felt it was really bad luck,” he added. “But I really wanted to give my best and try as much as I could.”
For Federer, at his age, doing what he’s doing – winning Wimbledon for the first time without losing a set – is stunning. And even more so when you consider the image of him face first on the ground a year ago in a crushing, season-ended loss to Milos Raonic.
“You would have laughed if I told you I was going to win two slams this year,” said Federer. “I also didn’t believe that I was going to win two this year. I did ask everybody on my team sincerely if they thought I could win majors again. It was important that my team believed it. It wasn’t just me trying to carry the team; I need the team to carry me most of the time. When you’re doubting yourself, they reassure you.
“If you’re feeling too good, they make sure you come back to planet earth and put you in your place. The answer from them was always the same: if you’re 100% healthy, you’re well-prepared, and you’re eager to play, anything’s possible.”
Now, after two Slam titles, two Masters wins, the Swiss is looking like a serious threat to win the US Open and grab the year-end No. 1. If he keeps playing well – he’s only lost two matches and in both he had matchpoints – and Rafael Nadal clay domination doesn’t carryover to the hardcourts, he’s the favorite to do it.
But for now, the old man rules.
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