Roger Federer defines evergreen. A fresh, vibrant champion with an appetite for success as voracious as ever despite advanced years (in tennis terms, of course).
The Swiss goes into Sunday’s Wimbledon final against Croatian Marin Cilic poised to secure a record eighth title at The Championships.
I feel very privileged to be in another final. I have the pleasure to play on Centre Court another time. I can't believe it's almost true again. I'm happy to have a day off to reflect on what I've done at the tournament Roger Federer
Federer, 35, eased through against Tomas Berdych, the 11th seed from the Czech Republic 7-6 7-6 6-4 to ensure an 11th appearance in the greatest annual male match in his sport.
He said: “I feel very privileged to be in another final. I have the pleasure to play on Centre Court another time. I can’t believe it’s almost true again. I’m happy to have a day off to reflect on what I’ve done at the tournament.”
It has been five years since Federer broke British hearts and defeated our very own Braveheart, Andy Murray in it.
But a sensible regime – resting his body from the labors of the heavy red clay at the French Open – looks like ensuring the player, touched by genius, his second Grand Slam of the year following his triumph at the Australian Open.
Berdych played well, forcing his opponent to two tie-breaks, but Federer was irresistible. So on song he might have given us a chorus of ‘we are the champions’. Perhaps he did in his head, although he would be too classy an individual to presume the title was already in his pocket.
And he would have been aware that another Croatian, seventh seed Cilic’s former coach Goran Ivanisevic, caused what was arguably the biggest shock in the whole history of the tournament by lifting the 2001 title when he became the only wild card to win it.
It is likely, mind, that he will show due respect to Cilic, who overcame American Sam Querrey in his semi-final and looking for his second major after the 2014 US Open, and then swash-buckle his way to the victory.
It is hard to look beyond Federer given the form he has shown throughout this year’s event. While the other members of the Big Four have toiled and exited – Murray with his suspect hip, Novak Djokovic with his dodgy arm and Rafa Nadal after a five-set marathon against Gilles Muller – Federer has moved serenely through without dropping a set.
Federer’s defeat of Berdych ensured a record 29th Grand Slam final for him.
And made the father-of-four the second oldest finalist behind Ken Rosewall, who made it through in 1974 at the age of 39
Federer took five years looking for an 18th Slam but now, after his success in Melbourne, he stands to add another. Just like London buses, so the cliché goes.
Federer had not been beaten by Berdych in their previous seven meetings but his foe made sure the eighth would not be a walk in the park for a player watched by Rosewall.
It was tight. Just three breaks, two crucially for Federer, while the eventual victor managed 53 winners against the Czech’s 31.
Federer’s serve was working like a dream in the opening set, dropping just a single point on it as he moved 4-1 up. But it faltered as Berdych broke back to force the first tie-break.
Federer struggled to shake off Berdych in the second but a series of whipped forehand winners saw the Swiss through the second tie-break.
The same shot stood Federer in good stead in the third set. But he had to save break points before opening up a 5-3 lead and then clinching the win in his 42nd appearance in the last four of a Grand Slam.
Federer looks set fair for Sunday. He overcame Clic in the last eight in 2016 after surviving a match point. He said: “Last time we had a brutal match – I was two sets down. I had to get lucky to win. Marin is a great guy. He’s a lovely guy – in his first Wimbledon final.”
Talking to the BBC, he added: “He crushed me at the US Open a few years ago. I hope he doesn’t play that good.”