Thursday, November 23, 2017
Sports

Roger Federer wins record eighth Wimbledon title

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LONDON — After Roger Federer closed out a Wimbledon final that was more of a coronation than a contest with an ace, he sat in his changeover chair and wiped away tears.

That is when it hit him: His wait for record-breaking title No. 8 at the grasscourt major was over. Until then, Federer hadn't been focused on winning Wimbledon more than any other man in the history of an event first held in 1877. All he had been concerned with, consumed with, was being healthy enough to compete at a high level and, he hoped, win a title, regardless of what the total count would be.

Capping a marvelous fortnight in which he never dropped a set, Federer won his eighth Wimbledon title and 19th major championship overall by overwhelming Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 in a mere 1 hour, 41 minutes Sunday.

"Wimbledon was always my favorite tournament. Will always be my favorite tournament. My heroes walked the grounds here and walked the courts here. Because of them, I think I became a better player, too," said Federer, who turns 36 next month and is the oldest male Wimbledon champion in the Open era, which began in 1968.

"To mark history here at Wimbledon really means a lot to me just because of all of that, really. It's that simple. … The tournament I played, not dropping a set, it's magical really."

His first major title came at Wimbledon in 2003 and was followed by others in 2004-07. He won again in '09 and '12. But then he lost finals in '14 and '15 to Novak Djokovic.

He couldn't be sure that another final, let alone a title, was possible a year ago, when he lost in the semifinals, then took the rest of 2016 off to let his surgically repaired left knee heal.

"It's been a long road," he said.

Federer had been tied at seven Wimbledon championships with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw. Sampras won all but one of his in the 1990s; Renshaw won each of his in the 1880s, when the previous year's winner advanced automatically to the final.

Federer's early play Sunday was symptomatic of jitters. For everything he has accomplished, he admits to feeling heavy legs and jumbled thoughts to this day.

It was Federer who double faulted in his first two service games. And it was Federer who faced the initial break point, in the fourth game. But Cilic netted a return, beginning a run of 17 points in a row Federer won on his serve. He was never confronted with another break point.

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

With Federer up 3-0 Sunday 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 present a challenge.

"Very tough emotionally," said Cilic, whose foot was retaped by a trainer after the second set. "I knew that I cannot give my best on the court."

Federer and wife Mirka's two 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 few fingers in his mouth until a sister grabbed his hand.

"They have no clue what's going on," Federer said about his boys. "They think it's probably a nice view and a nice playground. … One day, hopefully, they'll understand."

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

When Dad is Roger Federer, you can wait until the last Sunday to show up. Federer is back to lording over the sport the way no man has.

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