Roger Federer is now 35 years old, and not only is he setting and breaking his own records on the tour, he is still establishing personal bests. In fact, his record-breaking eighth Wimbledon title was also, at least in terms of sets lost, his best.
Federer came into this tournament having won a record seven titles at the All-England Club. He didn’t hold that record alone, though. He was tied with Pete Sampras, who also won seven titles in the Open Era. (William Renshaw also had seven titles in the “challenge round era,” but five of those seven titles came from a trip straight to the final.) Now, with his eighth title, Federer owns the record for the most titles all by himself.
However, Federer had never before won a title without dropping a single set. For all of his dominance at Wimbledon, Federer had never breezed to the title without losing a single set. Sometimes it was Andy Roddick, sometimes it was Rafael Nadal–and in 2003 it was Mardy Fish–but someone had always at the very least taken a set off of Federer. Federer entered this final, though, with a chance to finally complete that accomplishment–and match what Rafael Nadal just accomplished at the French Open (not for the first time, though) just five weeks ago.
Marin Cilic opened this final looking like he might be able to challenge Federer here. He came out blasting in Federer’s first two service games, outhitting the Swiss champion and really pushing the ball around the court. However, while serving at 2-2 in the first set, Cilic slipped while running down a drop shot and was never the same after that. He was broken that game and went on to lose the first set 6-3. The second set wasn’t competitive at all, with Federer earning an early break and adding another one later to take the set 6-1.
Cilic had a visit from the trainer during the second set in which he was in obvious pain, and saw the trainer and the doctor in between the second and third sets. There was no indication that it was necessarily related to his slip early in the match, but the doctor did wrap his foot before the third set.
Cilic began the third set with a bit of renewed energy, holding serve easily in the first game. He did much better on serve throughout the set, but it takes far more than a good serve to beat Roger Federer on Centre Court. He earned the deciding break for 4*-3 in the third set as a light rain began to fall, but not even the weather could stop what seems to be destiny for Federer. Federer held his serve twice for a historic 6-3 6-1 6-4 victory.
Federer’s eighth Wimbledon title is also his 19th Grand Slam title. For cross-sport comparison purposes only, it moves him past Jack Nicklaus’ 18 in men’s golf–a record that many thought for decades that no male golfer or tennis player would ever be able to match. Tiger Woods didn’t manage it, but Roger Federer did.
19 Slams also puts Federer at at a tie second on the all-time men’s list when including professional Slams before the Open Era. Professional Slams are generally not counted due to their smaller draws from 1957-67, but they did for the most part include the most talented players in the world. Rod Laver won 11 amateur Slams and eight professional Slams for a total of 19, which Roger Federer just matched.
On top of the list is Ken Rosewall’s 23 (15 professional Slams and eight amateur ones)–a number that everyone once felt entirely out of reach, even for Federer in his prime. But with the way Federer has come back to the fore this year, and with the way that two of his top rivals (Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic) have fallen off this year, that number may actually feel within reach. And, of course, 23 would also tie Serena Williams’ modern-era record for singles titles by any player, man or woman–though she will almost certainly have a chance to add her number as well.
One final note with this title is that, even with Federer’s limited schedule this year–he skipped the entire clay court season–he still has the World #1 ranking within his reach. He is now just over 1200 points behind World #1 Andy Murray, and Murray has far more to defend for the rest of the season. Federer is now the second player–after Australian Open finalist and French Open champion Rafael Nadal–to qualify for the World Tour Finals, though it’s not guaranteed that he will compete. All Federer really needs is a decent showing during the US hard court Masters tournaments–it seems unlikely that he will play both, but he should play in at least one–and a deep run at the US Open and that top ranking will be back within his reach. Roger Federer may not particularly care about his ranking anymore–he certainly doesn’t care about it more than he wants to win Slams–but with the #1 spot within reach, at this age, he will probably do just a little more to try and grab it.
Speaking of his age, Federer broke his own record as the oldest male Grand Slam singles champion since 1972–a record that he himself set at the Australian Open earlier this year.