Roger Federer admitted Sunday that he never thought he’d be a record eight-time Wimbledon champion and would even have laughed if he was told he’d win two majors in 2017.
The Swiss star, who will turn 36 in three weeks’ time, eased past the mark of seven All England Club titles he had shared with Pete Sampras since 2012 with a 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 win over injury-hit Marin Cilic in the final.
It was 16 years ago when Federer famously defeated Sampras at Wimbledon to announce himself as a star in the making.
However, it wasn’t until 2003 that he captured his first All England Club title. Now he has 19 majors, four clear of closest rival Rafael Nadal on the all-time list.
“I didn’t think I was going to be this successful after beating Pete here,” said Federer who also won a fifth Australian Open in January.
“I hoped to have a chance maybe one day to be in a Wimbledon final and have a chance to win the tournament. Winning eight is not something you can ever aim for. If you do, you must have so much talent and parents and the coaches that push you from the age of three on, who think you’re like a project. I was not that kid.”
Federer had been written off as a faded force when he was knocked out of Wimbledon in the semi-finals by Milos Raonic last year.
He immediately shut down his season to rest a knee injury, a decision which meant that for the first time in his professional career he would go through an entire campaign without adding to his trophy haul. But his Australian Open triumph led to back-to-back Masters at Indian Wells and Miami before he skipped the clay court season.
A ninth Halle grass court title followed and on Sunday his record triumph in south-west London took his career trophy collection to a staggering 93.
Sunday’s straight-sets cruise meant he was the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1976 to win the title without dropping a set.
He is also the oldest Wimbledon men’s champion of the modern era.
“I’m incredibly surprised how well this year is going, how well I’m feeling, how I’m managing tougher situations, where my level of play is on a daily basis,” added Federer.
“I am surprised that it’s this good. I knew I could do great again maybe one day, but not at this level. So I guess you would have laughed, too, if I told you I was going to win two slams this year. People wouldn’t believe me if I said that. I also didn’t believe that I was going to win two this year.”
Federer also insisted he fully intends to defend his Wimbledon title in 2018 despite delivering what many fans fear sounded like a farewell speech to Centre Court.
“We never know what happens,” said the Swiss star, who had told the crowd in his victory speech: “I hope to be back, I hope this wasn’t my last match”.
He later clarified his remarks, telling reporters: “Honestly, ever since I had the year I had last year, I think a year ahead of time, you know, with my schedule, fitness schedule, tournaments I would like to play. So I totally see myself playing here this time next year.
“There’s never a guarantee, especially not at 35, 36. But the goal is definitely to be here again next year to try and defend.”
* Story provided by AFP, video by wimbledon.com
Roger Federer got the seal of approval from his former coach Stefan Edberg, who has branded the Swiss as the greatest of all-time.
Edberg, who worked with Federer during the 2014 and 2015 seasons, was sitting in the Royal Box for Sunday’s final, and witnessed his former charge as he made history by claiming a record-extending 19th Grand Slam – the most ever won by a man.
Federer also became the oldest man in the Open Era to win a Wimbledon singles title and doesn’t appear to be slowing down, even though he turns 36 next month.
“It gives hope for everyone doesn’t it? It’s quite extraordinary. He’s so special in many ways,” Edberg, a six-time Grand Slam champion and ex-world No1, told BBC.
Asked if he considers Federer the greatest of all-time, Edberg said: “Roger is the greatest in my eyes and I think he’s proved it with 19 Grand Slam titles, eight here. It’s always worth coming out to watch him because you always know there’s going to be some unbelievable shots out there.”
Federer’s good friend Tommy Haas was also in attendance and the German can be pleased with the fact that he was one of just two people who managed to defeat the Swiss this season.
Referring to that victory over Federer last month, Haas joked and said: “Of course it’s a highlight for me no question, since this is my last year, I’ll definitely take that and can tell him for the rest of his life that when he won his eighth (Wimbledon), I beat him (the month before).
“Who knows what else he’s capable of? He’s showing us a lot and I think all the other competitors, especially in tennis as well, now that you’re 31, 32, they’re going to continue this trend and who knows what else is in store? So that’s very exciting, I think this tennis year on both the WTA and ATP side has been absolutely amazing and I’m just very excited for a good friend of mine.”
Federer is 31-2 win-loss in 2017, with his sole two losses coming against Haas in his opener in Stuttgart and Evgeny Donskoy in Dubai. He has otherwise won each of the other five tournaments he contested (Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami, Halle, Wimbledon).
He now stands alone as the only male eight-time Wimbledon champion in history, going one clear of Pete Sampras and Williams Renshaw.
“It’s absolutely incredible. We’re all in awe and just amazed at what he has accomplished already this year. Who would have thought? But it’s like he said in his speech, if you keep dreaming, if you keep believing, if you keep working hard and all of those things come together, a lot is possible in life,” continued Haas, a former world No2 and 2009 Wimbledon semi-finalist, who is retiring this season.
“After his loss in the semis here last year, and taking time off and making that decision – which isn’t easy for an athlete to say ‘I’m going to try to get ready and get fit’ and to come back and play these few events that he’s played this year and pretty much winning every single one of them is unbelievable, and winning big titles.
“Especially this one – I know that means the most to him deep down. Winning here a record eight times and holding that record now on his own is something that he was looking for and he’s got it, so I’m very happy for him.”
Federer’s decision to take a six-month hiatus last year to recover from back and knee problems paid off immediately when he won the Australian Open in January on his first official tournament back.
He then decided to take the clay season off and skip Roland Garros, in order to maximise his chances on his beloved grass surface.
During his time away from the game end of last year, the Swiss revolutionised his backhand, which is now as big of a weapon as any of his other shots.
“I think he’s playing as good as he ever has. I think his one shot that he’s improved more than anything is his backhand. I think when you look at his second serve, coming to his backhand, the way he takes it early and not slicing it as much anymore is something that the added to his game and it’s really working well,” explained Haas.
“I think he’s serving as good as he ever had, also a really high first-serve percentages and he doesn’t give you anything. He takes advantage of your mistakes and that’s what he did throughout all of his career, putting a lot of pressure on you.”
Commenting on Federer reaching 19 major titles, Haas concluded: “It’s a joke, it’s crazy, I mean it’s 19 now it’s unbelievable. They should change it from SW19 to RF19.”
Roger Federer trounced a tearful Marin Cilic to become the first man ever to win eight singles titles at Wimbledon.
It took the 35-year-old just an hour and 41 minutes to clinch by far his most one-sided Wimbledon final triumph and extend his overall record with a 19th grand slam singles title.
The 6-3 6-1 6-4 victory continues Federer’s magnificent season in what should be his tennis dotage, but even the most ardent of the Swiss’ fans – and there were many packed into Centre Court – did not want the final to play out like this.
Cilic started well but it became clear early in the second set that something was badly wrong with the Croatian.
At 3-0, he sobbed uncontrollably into his towel as he discussed the situation with the doctor and it looked like he might not be able to continue.
There has only ever been one retirement in a Wimbledon men’s singles final, back in 1911, and Cilic at least had the support of the crowd as he opted to play through the pain.
He had what looked like blisters on his left foot taped at the start of the third set and willed himself to make it something of a contest.
Federer continued to do what he had to do and, after clinching victory with an ace, raised his fists in the air.
It was understandably a slightly muted celebration but the emotion came for Federer when he looked up to his wife Mirka and their four children in his player box.
Here we look at some of the best reactions on Federer’s win.
Well done @rogerfederer .. best Athlete in our generation. Can't praise him enough. Absolute pleasure to watch him play..👏👏👏— Mahela Jayawardena (@MahelaJay) July 16, 2017
Leo Messi, Michael Jordan, Roger Federer. The best I've seen.— Gerard Piqué (@3gerardpique) July 16, 2017
The GOAT does it again! 🏆x19! And at age 35. He's my hero and inspiration! So proud of you @rogerfederer!— lindsey vonn (@lindseyvonn) July 16, 2017
— cheteshwar pujara (@cheteshwar1) July 16, 2017