Seventh for 17th for 75th for 286th week at number 1. If we could summarize in numbers Roger Federer’s triumph at Wimbledon, this Sunday, it would be as such. His record-tying seventh Wimbledon title, which is his record-enhancing 17th Grand Slam title and his 75th total career title, which brings him back to no 1 in the world for a record-tying 286th week, which he will beat in a week from now.
A whole string of numbers that only adds to the records that already belong to him, increasing the legend he started building in 2003, when he won his first Wimbledon title.
A lumpy cake draw
His draw was, at first glance, a cake draw. It was counting without the scare everyone got the day after Rafael Nadal’s surprise round 2 demise, when Julien Benneteau put the Swiss with his back against the wall. In the round-of-16, it literally was his back that gave cause to worry, but as Federer said, back spasms come and go and he was just fine in quarter-finals to demolish Mikhail Youzhny.
Meanwhile, those who could have given him even more trouble, like Gilles Simon and John Isner, lost early in the event, which made his draw seem even easier.
However, after the fight he gave Benneteau and the back scare of the Malisse match, everything went back in order and Federer only played with more and more strength and his usual artistry, serving wonderfully, hitting just like in his prime, albeit with some of the now usual walkabouts, although even those were scarce in the last rounds.
He played wonderfully against the defending champion, Novak Djokovic, to set up what became a dream final with Britain’s Andy Murray.
The toughest path
Andy Murray, for his part, had, on paper, the toughest draw of the top 4. If Nikolay Davydenko was sure not to cause him too much worries, as he never was a great grass player, Ivo Karlovic was a whole other matter and Murray needed all of his patience to dispose of the Croatian.
He then went on to beat both the clock and a very feisty Marcos Baghdatis, before taking on not Milos Raonic as most expected (he was taken out in the second round by Sam Querrey), but Marin Cilic, who can always be tricky, in a rain-delayed match that stretched over two days.
In the quarter-finals, he battled past a David Ferrer playing the best grass court season of his career, before having to fight a mighty fight against his own demons and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semis, making history by reaching the finals at Wimbledon for the first time in his career.
Only to face the best player of all times.
An epic four-setter
In a packed, electricity charged Centre Court, Roger Federer started the match a little nervously, being broken in the very first game by an aggressive Andy Murray, who finally surrendered the break mid-set, only to break once more, and serving it out nicely to take his first set in a Grand Slam final, 6-4.
The second set was even tighter, both men fighting a mighty battle, Murray cracking at the last moment to see the Swiss taking it 7-5. The Scot had his chances to break earlier in the set, but couldn’t take them. He tried, but Federer had started dictating the play, attacking as soon as he had an opportunity, something that makes him nearly unbeatable.
With Roger Federer serving at 1-1, 40-0, the rain came pouring down again and the match was interrupted so that they could close the roof. This ended up enhancing Federer’s game even more, putting Murray even more on the defensive, trying as he might to get a breakthrough that never came.
Murray gave everyone a fright when serving at 2-3, slipping badly on the grass and then battling in what ended up being the most nerve-racking game of the match, in which the Brit ended up broken after yet another tumble on the grass.
After that break, Roger Federer dominated the play and never relinquished, fighting as Andy Murray might and did, for a 4-6 7-5 6-3 6-4 win, Federer’s first Grand Slam win since the Australian Open in 2010, when he defeated the same opponent.
After the last ball fell, Roger Federer fell to his knees, crying with joy, but it was the disconsolate Andy Murray that had a lot of people tearing up during one of the most emotional trophy presentations I’ve seen in a long time:
I don’t think, after seeing him that way, anyone in his/her right mind can ever call Murray “cold”, “emotionless”, or “dour” again. Maybe his presser demeanour is thus, but he showed today what a bundle of emotions he is.
His time will come
This match convinced most people that Andy Murray will assuredly win a Grand Slam, if not several, within a future that doesn’t seem so very far away anymore.
His talent is undeniable. However, today, he convinced many that he also has the heart and the spirit to go all the way.
Furthermore, the progress he’s made in improving his forehand and his second serve are, without a doubt, the key to the success he’s had this past fortnight.
He showed he can handle the enormous pressure the British media has been putting on him since his first Wimbledon as a professional, which increased with every step along the road to success he’s made.
Today, I’m pretty convinced he could have beaten just about any player… except this inspired Roger Federer, who played just like in his prime.
The best of all times, without a doubt
By winning his seventh Wimbledon title, Roger Federer tied Pete Sampras and William Renshaw. This was also his 75th career title, which puts him two titles short of John McEnroe, who sits in the third place of the Open Era for the number of titles. As well, Federer added to his own record by winning his 17th Grand Slam title.
Monday, he will also be World no 1 again, a spot he hasn’t occupied since May 2010, which will make him tie Pete Sampras’s 286 weeks at no 1, and break the record next week.
Since the U.S. Open last year, Roger Federer showed that, at 30 years old, he is all but finished, as many said. Between then and now, he won eight titles (including this Wimbledon, the ATP World Tour Finals, and three Masters 1000), and made the semi-finals of the first two Grand Slams.
If some say (wrongfully so, in my opinion) that Federer’s first years as no 1 were due to the lack of opposition, I don’t think they can use that argument this time. With Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal having taken most of the spotlight over the last couple of years, the Swiss clawed his way back to the top with determination, grit, and a will to get this record that was evading him and that he came so close to tying, and breaking, a couple of years ago.
I don’t think there should be any doubt as to him being the best tennis player of all times, now.
Roger Federer added to his own legend today, once more. Maybe, in a few weeks, he can add to it even more by winning this elusive singles Olympic Gold, the only title of prestige missing from his imposing record. We can only wish him so.