Wimbledon Day 13 | Federer enjoys the moment
Roger Federer “hopes” to return and defend his Wimbledon title next year – and possibly play on there until he is 40.
Federer defeated an injury-hampered and tearful Marin Cilic 6-3 6-1 6-4 to claim a record eighth title in front of his Centre Court fan club, including royalty represented by Wills and Kate, also known as Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge.
I guess I dreamed, I believed, and really hoped that I could actually maybe really do it, to make it real. So I put in a lot of work, and it paid off Roger Federer
And the third seed dismissed pre-match hints that coming up to his 36th birthday he would be ready to hang up his rackets “soon” after he became the oldest winner of the men’s singles in the Open era.
It followed similar rumours after he claimed the Australian Open in January.
Federer, who joked he had become “part-time” after resting for six months going into the tournament following his Australian Open triumph, said: “I hope it wasn’t my last match and that I can come back next year and defend my title.
“We never know what happens! Ever since I had the year I had last year (with long spells of injury), I do think probably like a year ahead of time, with my schedule, fitness schedule, tournaments I would like to play.
“So I totally see myself playing here this time next year. But because it’s far away, because of what happened last year, I just like to take the opportunity to thank the people in the very moment, and make them understand, yes, I hope that I’m back.
“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.”
Federer tore his way through the history books as he swept aside Croatian seventh seed Cilic, who was hampered by a blister problem.
He joined Helen Wills Moody on 19 on the Grand Slam list, four behind all-time winner Margaret Court. The Swiss was the first champion to triumph without conceding a set since Bjorn Borg. And most of all was lifting himself above hero Pete Sampras and 19th century amateur William Renshaw with title No.8.
Federer, who beat Sampras to claim his first in 2003, said: “I didn’t think I was going to be this successful after beating Pete here. 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, in my opinion. 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. I was just really a normal guy growing up in Basel, hoping to make a career on the tennis tour.
“I guess I dreamed, I believed, and really hoped that I could actually maybe really do it, to make it real. So I put in a lot of work, and it paid off.”
Federer revealed the mere fact it was Wimbledon adds to his pleasure of being an eight-time champion.
He said: “It is very special (to win for the eighth time) as Wimbledon was always my favourite tournament, will always be my favourite tournament. My heroes walked the grounds here and walked the courts here. Because of them, I think I became a better player, too.
“To mark history here at Wimbledon really means a lot to me just because of all of that really. It’s that simple.
“Funny enough, I didn’t think that much of it throughout today, throughout the trophy ceremony. I was more just so happy that I was able to win Wimbledon again because it’s been a long road, it’s been an exciting road.
“It’s been tough at times, but that’s how it’s supposed to be. So to be Wimbledon champion for an entire year now is something I can’t wait to savour and just enjoy. So it was super special. Number eight obviously means a lot to me because at that level, to be part of Wimbledon history, is truly amazing. And to do it without dropping a set is magical.”
Is it possible you could still be playing Wimbledon when you are 40?
He said with a smile: “I mean, you would think so, if health permitting, and everything is okay. You could take 300 days off beforehand, just prepare for Wimbledon, put yourself in a freeze box, then you come out and train a bit, you know you’re not going to be injured.
“Yeah, playing Wimbledon and winning Wimbledon are two separate things. Don’t forget that. The problem with not playing, you take a chance on your health, too, in some ways, because matches actually are the real – what do you call it – the measuring stick.
“Because you can practice as good as you want, you can feel as good as you want in practice, but when the pressure comes in the matches, the nerves, the stomach, how you feel it, everything that happens like today before the match, you can’t recreate that in a practice.
“You don’t know how your body is going to react to that kind of pressure when you’re moving, you’re not free, you’re tense. That’s why you always need to have the right balance between practice, matches and vacation. At some stage you have to play a minimum of matches, otherwise you’re just not going to be successful any more. That’s going to be the interesting thing moving forward, how I’m going to be able to manage that.”
It seemed the only thing that seemed to be different with Federer from the one in his earlier prime was that his hair was cut shorter than usual. The white bandana which held his long locks in place during his first seven Wimbledon triumphs was in place as was his A game.
But he removed it as, with tears in his eyes, he celebrated a record All-England crown as he saluted the 15,000 present.
But he had a word of sympathy for Croatian Cilic who broke down in sobs of tears during one changeover.
He said: “Tennis can be a cruel game. Because I couldn’t tell what it was, it actually made things easier. If I saw him limping around, or if I saw him pull up hurt in some place, I would start to think, Okay, maybe I’ll throw in a dropshot to really check him out, then want more, because that’s what you do. You need to hurt him, you know, where it hurts already. Because I didn’t know and I couldn’t tell, I just said, ‘Focus on your game, focus on your match, keep playing’. The good thing is I was already in the lead. But I’d like to congratulate him on a wonderful tournament.”
Cilic said: “It was definitely one of the unfortunate days for me to happen. I got a really bad blister. Even I felt it in the match with Querrey in the semis. Fluid just came down under my callous in the foot. I want to thank the physios here, Alejandro and Graham and Dr. Phil. They helped. The last 30 hours, they were just constantly almost with me.
“They did as much as they could, but unfortunately I still felt the pain. Every time I had to do a reaction fast, fast change of movement, I was unable to do that. Obviously was very tough emotionally because I know how much I went through last few months in preparation with everything.
“It was also tough because of my own team. They did so much for me. I just felt it was really bad luck. But in any point, obviously if the score would go really badly, I wouldn’t push it so much. But I really wanted to give my best, you know, to try as much as I could.”