LONDON: For his post-match press conference, the champion sported a fitted white tee with ‘Roger’ printed across it. The name that sparks a stirring story, the remarkable journey of an athlete in the twilight of his career.
Roger Federer has five titles from seven tournaments in 2017. Two of those are Grand Slams -the Australian Open and Wimbledon. The soon-to-be 36 Swiss came out of a six-month break in January and won the first tournament he played in. He might have clinched his eighth title at SW19, which took him past his idol Pete Sampras’ seven, against a physically-struggling Marin Cilic, but he enjoyed a flawless run into the final.
“I’m incredibly surprised how well this year is going, how well I’m feeling, how things are turning out, how I’m managing tougher situations, where my level of play is on a daily basis,” Federer said. “I knew I could do great again, but not at this level. I guess you would’ve laughed if I told you I was going to win two Slams this year. I wouldn’t have believed it either.”
Federer, who expanded his collection of majors to 19 on Sunday when he became the oldest Wimbledon champion in the Open Era, said: “I don’t know how much longer it’s going to last. I’ve got to always remind myself that health comes first at this point. If I do that, maybe things which I didn’t think were possible before, could be possible.”
Federer, who lost the 2014 and 15 finals at the All England Club to Novak Djokovic, said belief has been his constant companion. “I truly believed. It was also important that my team believed as well. It wasn’t just me trying to carry the team, I need the team to carry me most of the time. Maybe when you are doubting yourself, they reassure you. If you’re feeling too good, they make sure you come back to planet Earth and put you in your place,” he said. “I did ask them the question sincerely, 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. Basically, the answer was always the same from them – they thought if I’m 100 per cent healthy and if I’m well-prepared and eager to play, anything was possible.”
Federer’s longevity, the talking point in sport today, may have something to do with his mooring which was simple, laying the foundation for a riveting romance with the racket sport. A love that has stayed true.
“I hoped to have a chance to one day win a Wimbledon final. Winning eight is not something you can ever aim for,” he explained. “If you do, you must have so much talent and parents and the coaches that push you from the age of three on. I was not that kid. I was just a normal guy growing up in Basel, hoping to make a career on the tennis tour. I dreamed, I believed, and really hoped that I could make it real.”
“I dreamed pretty big as a kid,” Federer said. “I believed things were possible that maybe others thought were never going to be achievable. That helped me. I trained really hard and very clever over all the years. I go back to my first coach, to my coaches today, and the same thing with fitness. I think every step of the way I always had the right people. I was blessed with a lot of talent, but I also had to work for it. Talent only gets you that far really.”
Federer, who was cheered on by Aussie legend Rod Laver on Sunday, said: “Wimbledon was always my favorite tournament. My heroes walked the grounds here and walked the courts here. Because of them I became a better player.”
The 35-year-old, who has 19 Slams from 29 finals, says he long embraced the big stage. “I’ve always been a big-stage player. I always felt like I played my best on the biggest courts. I struggled on Court 18 for whatever reason. I didn’t feel I hit the ball as good there, like on Centre Court. That was always going to be a good thing, if I played the best players, or in the bigger matches, that that would serve me well.”
Federer said there would be no more big breaks this year. “I was always going to play more in the second part of the season. I wasn’t going to skip entire swings. I was always going to play as much as I possibly could. I’m going to stay true to that. Most likely I’ll play the US Open.”