Wimbledon 2017: Roger Federer learnt from his heroes to make tennis history

Seven times he has done it before, and seven times he has been made to work harder.

Yet this, the eighth time Roger Federer has lifted the Wimbledon men’s singles trophy, is arguably the most significant.

Federer’s legend was forged in SW19 – a fourth-round win over Pete Sampras aged just 19, beating Rafael Nadal in a five-set epic on a roofless Centre Court in 2007 to equal Bjorn Borg’s record five in a row, outlasting Andy Roddick 16-14 to win a record 15th Grand Slam title two years later and beating Andy Murray in his first Wimbledon final to equal Pistol Pete’s tally of seven wins.

This win will not rank among those landmark victories in his career, but as a marker of his now undeniable standing as the greatest man to ever pick up a racquet, no win has been more important.

Not only was this contest, against an injured Marin Cilic who broke down in tears mid-way through the second set, his easiest test in 11 SW19 finals, it was also his easiest Championships.

The first man to win without dropping a set since Borg in 1976, Federer spent just 11 hours and 37 minutes on court – the least amount of all his eight wins.

“Wimbledon was always my favourite tournament, will always be my favourite tournament,” said the 35-year-old.

“My heroes walked the grounds here and walked the courts here. Because of them, I think I became a better player.

“To mark history here at Wimbledon really means a lot to me just because of all of that really.

“Funnily 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, you know, to savour and just enjoy.”

His 6-3 6-1 6-4 win came in just one hour and 41 minutes.

Cilic was the first to draw a break point, but as Federer snuffed it out when trailing 1-2 in the first set, the Croat’s chances of victory seemingly went with it.

Federer broke the very next game and again at 5-3 as Cilic double faulted on set point to gift his opponent the opener.

Another break followed early in the second set and when Federer held for a 3-0 lead, the 2014 US Open champion returned to his chair a broken man.

Crying into his towel as the doctor assessed him, Cilic appeared close to throwing in that same towel.

However, he emerged to win a solitary game in the 25-minute second set before a medical timeout – in which he had his foot taped – provoked an upturn in form during which he showed signs of his true self.

But when he dropped serve at 3-3 the game was up and Federer sealed the simplest of victories with an ace – leaving him to contemplate the remarkable comeback he has enjoyed this season.

“I’ve got to take more time off,” he joked after the match.

“Better than holding the trophy and winning today is just being healthy.

“The tournament that I played, not dropping a set, it’s magical, I can’t believe it yet.

“It’s disbelief that I can achieve such heights, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be here again in another final after last year.”

The story of Federer’s six month sabbatical after last year’s Wimbledon has long been told, but less so has the influence his inner circle has played in his 2017 renaissance.

“Maybe when you’re doubting yourself, they reassure you,” added Federer. “If you’re feeling too good, they make sure you come back to planet earth and put you in your place.

“That’s where I think I have a wonderful team. I did ask them the question sincerely, to everybody on my team, if they thought I could win majors again or if I could win the biggest tournaments or if I could win against the best on a regular basis.”

Cilic meanwhile – playing just his second Grand Slam semi-final – was left to rue the blister that hindered him so much.

“Every time I had to do a reaction fast, fast change of movement, I was unable to do that,” said the 28-year-old.

“Obviously it was very tough emotionally because I know how much I went through last few months in preparation with everything.

“It was just a feeling that I knew that I cannot give my best on the court, that I cannot give my best game and my best tennis, especially at this stage of my career, at such a big match.

“It was very, very difficult to deal with it.”

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Featured image courtesy of Wimbledon via YouTube, with thanks

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