Just 24 hours after a 33-year-old Serena Williams became the oldest female grand slam champion in the modern era, Roger Federer today could walk away as the oldest men’s singles Wimbledon champion in the same era.
There is something very special it seems about the year 1981 with both Federer and Williams – born a month apart – showing the world what a couple of ‘veterans’ can still do on a tennis court.
“That was a good year,” laughed Williams. “Roger is playing so great and we’re both the same age and it’s kind of cool to have someone so great as Roger Federer to be in that same sport and do so well side by side to have similar careers for the whole time, it’s really incredible.”
On whether he can follow her into the winners’ circle today, she said: “If I can do it, God knows he can do it. I saw his semi-final match. He was playing unbelievable. I was totally inspired by that.”
Standing between Federer and a record-breaking eighth Wimbledon crown is world No1 Novak Djokovic, who beat the Swiss in the final here last year.
The pair have the second-biggest rivalry in tennis as they enter their 40th meeting against each other (Djokovic’s 42 matches with Rafael Nadal is the most played between the same two players in the Open Era). They have split their previous 12 grand slam clashes but Djokovic has been more successful in their more recent ones, winning five of their last seven.
But Federer’s form this tournament has been so prolific that all previous history between these two seems irrelevant.
Federer is the classiest sportsman there’s ever been
— stephen hendry (@SHendry775) July 10, 2015
The Swiss was in emphatic form when he beat Andy Murray in straight sets in the semi-finals on Friday and he has dropped serve just once in the entire fortnight.
“Roger is one of my greatest rivals,” said the Serb, who is targeting a 200th grand slam match win today and a third Wimbledon trophy. “He’s one of the people that actually made me a better player.
“In the matches against him, I went through a lot of different emotions and things that allowed me to understand what I need to do to become a better player and to win against him and win grand slam trophies. This is where he loves to play. This is where he plays his best tennis, I think. The Centre Court of Wimbledon, seven titles. It’s his court. He loves it.
“He usually rises to the occasion. He’s always playing his toughest when it matters the most. That’s why he’s a big champion. It’s going to be probably the biggest challenge I can have.”
Their rivalry could not be any tighter as Federer has the tiniest of edges, leading Djokovic 20-19 in career meetings.
The Serbian world No 1 enters this final in a different place com- pared to last year though. In 2014, he hadn’t won a major in 18 months heading into Wimbledon and his five-set win over Federer ended a five-slam title drought.
This year, Djokovic is playing his third final of the season and has captured a record fifth Australian Open a mere six months ago.
“It was a very important match for me to win last year in Wimbledon final because I had lost quite a few grand slam finals. To win that match in five sets against Roger on grass was definitely something that gave me a lot of confidence.”
On his part, Federer is happy to take on Djokovic again, with a chance to do things right this time.
“It’s great to play Novak anywhere these days because he’s a great player,” he said. “He’s had great success, unbelievable success actually, throughout his career,” said Federer who will be playing a record 26th major final.
“He’s become very match-tough. He always shows up. It’s tough to beat him. For me, I don’t really think about the match we played against each other last year. I just remember it was unbelievably thrilling. The crowd really got into it. I’m just happy personally for myself to be back in a final.”
A short while after stepping off the court carrying the Wimbledon trophy for a sixth time in her career, Serena Williams allowed herself to look ahead to New York where she could possibly make history and win a calendar year Grand Slam at the US Open in September.
“Serena writes history every week,” her coach Patrick Mouratoglou says. In a way that is true.
With her 6-4, 6-4 win over Spaniard Garbine Muguruza in the final on Saturday, the 33-year-old Williams became the oldest grand slam champion in the Open Era and completed the ‘Serena Slam’ for a second time in her career, having captured a fourth consecutive major trophy.
The last time a player held all four majors at the same time was Williams between 2002 and 2003.
But winning all four grand slams in the same calendar year is a different kind of history. Only three other women have achieved that in the past and Williams would be the first since 1988 to pull it off, should she win the next major in New York.
Not only would Williams complete the Grand Slam with a win there, she would also equal Steffi Graf’s Open Era record of 22 major titles, which could shut the door on any doubts that the American is the greatest of all-time.
“It took me a little while. I think when I did my interview for BBC after the match, I did the whole presentation, I did the whole walk around the court. I was peaceful, feeling really good. Maybe a little after that I started thinking about New York,” admitted Williams after her victory.
Williams had forbidden anyone from talking to her about the ‘Serena Slam’ heading into the final with Muguruza and her nervy start showed she knew in the back of her mind that she was chasing history.
In her first six matches at Wimbledon this fortnight, Williams had struck just 13 double faults in total. In an eight-minute opening game against Muguruza alone, she had already hit three to get broken and allow the Spaniard an early lead.
Williams was frustrated with herself, screaming loudly as she struggled to land almost half of her first serves in. Letting out the anger helped as she managed to break back in the eighth game, where she got away with a mis-hit return to draw level at 4-4.
Muguruza hit her first double fault of the match to face a break/set-point in the 10th game and Williams converted with a big cross court forehand winner to take a one-set lead and her fourth consecutive game.
In the second set, Williams raced to a 5-1 lead but that’s when Muguruza decided to go for broke as she rallied back, claiming two service breaks to make it 4-5.
Women’s Grand Slam-a tournament in which everyone competes to reach the finals to get beaten by Serena. What an athlete. Take a bow. #legend
— Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) July 11, 2015
But then it was the 21-year-old’s turn to get nervy as she double-faulted on her first point in the 10th game. Williams pounced at the chance, going up 0-40 and she wrapped up her second ‘Serena Slam’ on a wild forehand from Muguruza.
“Don’t be sad, you’ll be holding this trophy very, very soon, believe me,” Williams told Muguruza during the trophy ceremony.
The world No 1 heaped praise on her opponent during her press conference too, adding: “I think she really stepped up to the plate today. She was determined to do well and to win. She came out there to win. She wasn’t out there just to play a final. I think that says a lot about her and her future.”
Mouratoglou branded Williams accomplishing the ‘Serena Slam’ an “incredible achievement”, and said nobody in the women’s game has worked out a way to consistently challenge her.
“No one ever found the key, it is hidden really well,” said the French coach. “I don’t think it exists. She can lose but the key to beat her no one ever found it. To beat her maybe once, but it doesn’t happen again so it’s not the real key.”
Sania Mirza became the first Indian woman to win a doubles grand slam after she clinched a dramatic victory alongside partner Martina Hingis in the Wimbledon final.
Mirza and Hingis, who only started playing together last March but have since made five finals in nine outings, beat Russian pair Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina 5-7, 7-6 (4), 7-5 on Saturday.
– Wimbledon: Williams wins 21st Major, 6th Wimbledon
Mirza and Hingis saved nine of 12 break points against their Russian opponents to win their first major together. Mirza had won three mixed doubles title before but never a women’s doubles crown previously.
Hingis, who is a five-time grand slam singles champion but re-launched her career as a doubles player in 2013, will be targeting another title on Sunday in mixed doubles alongside Leander Paes.