Roger Federer’s biggest rivals have faded. But the man regarded as the greatest tennis player ever, continues with his legendary conquests.
Federer’s 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 win over Marin Cilic in the 2017 Wimbledon Finals is the latest in his greatest hits tour. He may no longer be as active as he used to during his prime, but Federer has preserved himself to be at the biggest events, to win the matches that matter most.
“I honestly didn’t think I was going to be able to run through top-10 players the way I am, win all these breakers, win all these big moments,” said Federer, who will turn 36 next month. “This is what’s made the difference for me. I’ve won all the big matches this year. It’s unbelievable.”
Unbelievable is an understatement. Federer has played in two grand slams this year and he won both. He has a 31-2 record this year, including 9-0 against Top 10 ranked players. He is 17-5 in tie breakers, proving that the Federer Express continues to deliver in big moments. He didn’t need any of those big moments to beat Marin Cilic in the finals. His opponent was simply overrun by the moment itself. Federer was simply unstoppable.
"I gave it my best," Cilic said. "That's all I could do."
Sometimes, one’s best isn’t good enough. Especially if it’s against the greatest the game has ever seen.
The victory caps a remarkable return for Federer who exited Wimbledon last year with a lot of questions hanging over his head. It wasn’t the first time that Federer lost in the semifinals at Wimbledon, but it was perhaps the first time that the Federer Express showed signs of mortality- his body was letting him down.
In early 2016, Federer had knee surgery. He also skipped the French Open because of a bad back, ending his his record of playing in 65 consecutive grand slam tournaments. Then after losing to Milos Raonic at Wimbledon, he took the rest of the year off in an attempt to let his left knee heal. Federer did not play in the 2016 Rio Olympics and the U.S. Open. It worked like magic.
"I always believed that I could maybe come back and do it again. And if you believe, you can go really, really far in your life, and I did that," said Federer. "And I'm happy that I kept on believing and dreaming, and here I am today for the eighth. It's fantastic."
Records, More Records
Federer opened the year with a magical win over long-time rival Rafael Nadal at the 2017 Australian Open. The triumph was Federer’s fifth title in Melbourne and 18th grand slam title overall. But more than extending his record total grand slam wins, it was Federer’s first grand slam in five years. The last time he won was in 2012 at Wimbledon. Then he skipped the French Open for a second straight year, to focus on the remainder of the year. Well rested, the Federer Express delivered yet another record breaking conquest.
At 35 years and 342 days, Federer was the oldest finalist in Wimbledon since 39 year old Ken Rosewall in 1974. By winning the All-England club championship, Federer became oldest winner in its 140-year history. The previous record was held by the great Arthur Ashe who was 31 when he won in 1975. By winning his second grand slam of the year, Roger Federer became only the second player, 30 years or older, to win multiple grand slams in a single calendar year. The other player to do so was the legendary Rod Laver in 1969.
Federer was making his 11th Wimbledon Finals appearance, the most number of finals appearances in a single grand slam tournament. His semifinals triumph over Tomas Berdych was his 90th career win at Wimbledon, another record. By beating Marin Cilic in the finals, Federer won his 8th Wimbledon title. The 8th title was one for the ages.
Federer, Pete Sampras and William Renshaw held the record for most Wimbledon tournaments won at 7. Sampras, considered by some as the greatest tennis player ever, dominated Wimbledon in the 90 by winning seven of eight titles from 1993-2000. On the other hand, Renshaw was spectacular in the 1800’s, winning Wimbledon six straight times from 1881-86 and a 7th one in 1889. With all due respect to both legends, Feders’ feat is more impressive because of the fourteen year gap between his first and eighth Wimbledon victories.
Federer’s brilliance doesn’t end in his incredible longevity. His dominance in the 2017 Wimbledon tournament is also unparalleled. The Swiss master won the title without dropping a single set all tournament long. This was the fifth time in his career, including his third at Wimbledon ( 2006, 2008 and 2017 ) where he’s reached a grand slam finals without dropping a set. By not dropping a set in two weeks, Federer becomes the second player in the Open era to win Wimbledon without dropping a set. Only the iconic Bjorn Borg was the other tennis player to do that in 1976.
Despite his monumental win at Wimbledon and the many records he’s broken, Federer still has perhaps one more to chase. While he is now the oldest Wimbledon champion ever, he is still not the oldest player to win a grand slam tournament. That distinction belongs to Australian tennis great Ken Rosewall.
One More To Break?
Rosewall defeated Malcolm Anderson in straight sets: 7-6 ( 7-2 ), 6-3, 7-5 to win the 1972 Australian Open at the age of 37 years and 63 days. The Aussie also holds the number 2,4 and 7 records in that department. In 1971, Rosewall also won the Australian Open at 36 years and 63 days ( #2 ). He also won the 1970 U.S. Open at 35 years and 315 days (#4). Federer’s Wimbledon triumph ranks as number three. The man he is chasing, Ken Rosewall, believes Federer can break his record.
“I'm like millions of others. I admire Roger so much," Rosewall said to Reuters during an interview. "I think he's going to be a force in tennis for a few more years…."I was playing some of my best tennis at 35. Roger's doing the same thing. I don't see any reason why he shouldn't continue for at least another two or three years….If anyone is to break it, I won't be sorry to see the record go to somebody like Roger."
Because Rosewall’s record is bound by age, only time will tell if Roger Federer will ever surpass it. But after an authoritative win at the 2017 Wimbledon tournament, you bet the Federer Express is going to continue to deliver.
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