Roger Federer back to being supreme in tennis, lording over the sport the way no man has

Roger Federer’s wait for No. 8 at Wimbledon is over.

The montage shows Roger Federer holding up the trophy for each of his 19 major singles victories. Pictures: STF/AFP/Getty

He is once again the champion of the grass-court Grand Slam tournament, now more often than any other man in the history of an event first held in 1877.

Federer won his eighth title at the All England Club and 19th major trophy overall, capping a marvellous fortnight in which he never dropped a set by overwhelming Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 yesterday in a lopsided final that was more coronation than contest.

When it ended on an ace from Federer after merely 1 hour, 41 minutes, he raised both arms overhead.

Soon, he was sitting on the sideline, wiping tears from his eyes.

“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,” Federer said.

“And I’m happy I kept on believing and dreaming and here I am today for the eighth. It’s fantastic.”

His first major title came at Wimbledon in 2003, and was followed by others in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. He won again in 2009 and 2012. But then he lost finals in 2014 and 2015 to Novak Djokovic.

The gold trophy that he was denied on those occasions was in Federer’s hands last night.

He turns 36 on August 8, making the father of four the oldest man to win Wimbledon in the Open era.

Both of his sets of twins - boys, 3, in their light blue blazers; girls, 7, in their dresses - were in the guest box for the trophy ceremony.

One son stuck a couple of fingers in his mouth; a daughter grabbed her brother’s hand.

“They have no clue what’s on. They think it’s probably a nice view and a nice playground. But it’s not quite like that here, so one day hopefully they’ll understand,” Federer said about his boys.

As for the girls, he said: “They enjoy to watch a little bit. They come for the finals, I guess.”

Truly, this outcome was only in doubt for about 20 minutes, the amount of time it took Federer to grab his first lead.

Cilic said afterwards he developed a painful blister on his left foot during his semi-final Friday, and that affected his ability to move properly or summon the intimidating serves that carried him to his lone Grand Slam title at the 2014 U.S. Open, where he surprisingly beat Federer in straight sets in the semifinals.

This one was all Federer, whose seventh championship five years ago pulled him even with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw in what’s still officially called Gentlemen’s Singles.

Sampras won all but one of his in the 1990s; Renshaw won each of his in the 1880s, when the previous year’s champion advanced automatically to the final.

With clouds overhead and a bit of chill in the air Sunday, Federer’s early play was symptomatic of jitters.

For everything he’s accomplished, for all of the bright lights and big settings to which he’s become accustomed, the guy many have labelled the “GOAT” - Greatest of All Time - admits to feeling heavy legs and jumbled thoughts to this day.

And so it was that Federer, not Cilic, hit a double-fault in each of his first two service games. And it was Federer, not Cilic, who faced the match’s initial break point, in the match’s fourth game. But Cilic netted a return there, beginning a run of 17 points in a row won by Federer on his serve. He would never be confronted with another break point.

“I gave it my best,” Cilic said. “That’s all I could do.”

In the very next game, Federer broke to lead 3-2. He broke again to take that set when Cilic double-faulted, walked to the changeover and slammed his racket on his sideline chair. Cilic then sat and covered his head with a towel.

After Federer raced to a 3-0 lead in the second set, Cilic cried while he was visited by a doctor and trainer.

He said that was not so much a result of his foot’s pain as the idea that he could not play well enough to challenge Federer.

“Obviously, it was very tough emotionally,” said Cilic, whose foot was re-taped by a trainer after the second set. “I knew that I cannot give my best on the court. ... It was very difficult to deal with it.”

Federer broke to a 4-3 edge in the third set and all that remained to discover was how he’d finish. It was with his eighth ace, at 114 mph (184 kph), part of a total of 23 winners. He made only eight unforced errors.

This caps a remarkable reboot for Federer, who departed Wimbledon a year ago with a lot of doubts: His body was letting him down for the first time in his career.

He’d had surgery on his left knee, then sat out the French Open because of a bad back, ending a record streak of participating in 65 consecutive majors.

After Wimbledon, he did not play the rest of the year, skipping the Rio Olympics, the U.S. Open and everything else in an attempt to let his knee heal properly.

It worked. Did it ever.

Feeling refreshed and fully fit, Federer returned to the tour in January and was suddenly playing like the guy of old, rather than like an old guy.

In a turn-back-the-clock moment, he faced rival Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final and, with a fifth-set comeback, won.

It was Federer’s 18th Grand Slam title, adding to his own record, and first in 4½ years. Those who had written Federer off needed to grab their erasers. The formula made sense, clearly, so why not try it again? Federer skipped the clay-court circuit, missing the French Open again, to be in top shape for the grass courts he loves so dearly. Sunday’s victory made Federer’s record 31-2 in 2017, with a tour-leading five titles.

“Obviously, now if he wins, everybody thinks it’s great - it was the best - decision,” coach Severin Luthi said about the more recent time off. “But you don’t have the guarantee for that.”

Federer is back to being supreme in tennis, lording over the sport the way no man has.

“It’s magical, really,” Federer said. “I can’t believe it yet.”

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