As the 2017 season began, and Roger Federer took his first tentative steps back on court at the Hopman Cup after six months away, he seemed further than ever from a Grand Slam title.
The last time he won one, here at Wimbledon, was almost five years ago, and while still a fabulously talented player and the sport’s most popular icon, he’d fallen short in three subsequent Grand Slam deciders – two at Wimbledon, one in New York. With each passing year at each major tournament, Federer was older, a year further past his prime, increasingly susceptible to injury.
Many believed another major trophy was beyond him.
Yet on Sunday at the All England Club, that narrative was completely written. Federer now holds two of those trophies this year, thrashing Marin Cilic 6-3 6-1 6-4 to win Wimbledon six months after claiming a five-set victory over Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final.
He’s scooped four of the season’s biggest five titles, his latest coming at SW19 without the loss of a set.
He’s back, and possibly better than ever. It’s quite remarkable.
“Honestly I’m incredibly surprised how well this year is going,” Federer said.
“How well I’m feeling, as well, how things are turning out to be on the courts, how I’m managing tougher situations, where my level of play is on a daily basis. 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.
“It’s incredible. I don’t know how much longer it’s going to last. I have no idea. But I just got to always remind myself that health comes first at this point. If I do that, maybe things are actually possible I didn’t think were.”
For the stats fans, Federer’s Wimbledon triumph in 2017 makes for some compelling reading.
His eighth Wimbledon title makes him the most decorated male singles champion ever at the tournament, seeing him surpass both William Renshaw and Pete Sampras, who until this year were level with the Swiss on seven titles.
Federer is also the oldest man in the Open Era to win the singles title here, giving him a jaw-dropping 19th Grand Slam singles title and putting him even further ahead of the second-placed Nadal, who owns 15.
Federer’s 19 major titles mean that now only female legends Margaret Court, Serena Williams and Steffi own more.
He was playing in an 11th Wimbledon final, which was another record – no other man has played in more than 10 finals at the same Grand Slam tournament.
And after dominating impressive opposition – including Grigor Dimitrov, Milos Raonic and Tomas Berdych – during the Wimbledon fortnight, he became just the third man, after Bjorn Borg and Rafael Nadal, to win multiple Grand Slam singles titles without the loss of a set.
Yet it was Wimbledon title No.8 that satisfied Federer perhaps most of all.
“It is very special. 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,” he said.
“To mark history here at Wimbledon really means a lot to me just because of all of that really. It’s that simple.
“Number eight obviously means a lot to me because at that level, to be part of Wimbledon history, is truly amazing.”
31 May 2017
Every now and again at a major tournament, unknown players spring massive surprises and so... More
12 August 2016
Juan Martin Del Potro, Elina Svitolina, Safarova and Strycova… it’s been a week of ten... More
6 July 2017
Wimbledon might be the cathedral of tennis, but that doesn't mean you can't play hide and ... More