LONDON: Roger Federer won a record eighth Wimbledon title and became the tournament’s oldest champion yesterday with a straight-sets victory over injury-hit Marin Cilic who dramatically broke down in tears midway through the final.
Federer claimed his 19th Grand Slam title 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 and at 35 is Wimbledon’s oldest men’s winner of the modern era, succeeding Arthur Ashe, who was almost 32 when he won in 1976.
However, the Swiss superstar’s 11th Wimbledon final, and 29th at the majors, will also be remembered for the moving sight of the popular Cilic breaking down in tears after slipping 3-0 behind in the second set. The seventh seeded Croatian, the 2014 US Open champion, sobbed inconsolably and buried his head in his towel as his title dream slipped away.
He had his left foot taped at the end of the second set but it was in vain as Federer became the first player since Bjorn Borg in 1976 to win Wimbledon without dropping a set in the entire tournament.
“He’s a hero,” Federer said of his opponent. Twelve months ago, Federer was defeated in five sets in the semi-finals by Milos Raonic and promptly shut down his season to rest a knee injury. “It’s disbelief I can achieve such heights. I wasn’t sure I would ever be here in another final after last year,” said Federer, who turns 36 in three weeks’ time and who has now broken the tie for seven Wimbledon titles he shared with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw.
“I had some tough ones in the finals, losing two against Novak (Djokovic). “But I always believed. I kept on believing and dreaming I could get back. “Here am I today with the eighth. It’s fantastic, if you keep believing you can go far in your life.”
Federer won his 18th Slam in Australia in January on his return to the tour before adding the Indian Wells and Miami Masters back-to-back and a ninth Halle grasscourt title. He also skipped the entire claycourt season. “I’ve got to take more time off,” joked Federer, playing in just his seventh event of the year. “I’ll be gone again for the next six months! I don’t know if it will work as well again.”
Cilic, who had spent four and a half hours more than Federer getting to the final, said retiring with his injury was never an option. “I never give up in a match. I gave it my best-it’s all I can do,” said Cilic who was still emotional at the trophy presentation.
“I had an amazing journey here. I played the best tennis of my life. I really want to thank my team-they gave so much strength to me.” Beneath a star-studded Royal Box where Prince William and wife Kate rubbed shoulders with actors Hugh Grant and Bradley Cooper, Cilic had his first break point in the fourth game. It was saved by Federer and it was to be Cilic’s only glimmer of hope.
Federer broke in the next game when his opponent suffered a nasty fall on the worn surface which was to ultimately undermine his challenge. Federer then served up two love service games before claiming the opener 6-3 off a Cilic double fault, the Croatian’s second of the final.
The Swiss superstar swept into a 3-0 lead in the second set and at the changeover, Cilic slumped in his courtside chair in tears and in obvious pain. The trainer and doctor were summoned before Cilic hid his head in his towel in a desperate attempt to compose himself.
The 28-year-old held serve on the resumption but the lethal barrage continued, Federer stretching his lead over his friend to 4-1. Cilic dropped the set 6-1 and called a medical timeout to have his left foot bandaged and take a painkiller.
His discomfort was reflected in his statistics. By the end of the second set, he had served just two aces compared to the 130 he had fired past bamboozled opponents in his previous six rounds. Federer pounced again with a break for 4-3 and wrapped up the one-sided final with a second serve ace to complete his coronation after just 1hr 41 minutes.
Fittingly, he too wept at the end. – AFP