Roger Federer has lifted Wimbledon’s challenge cup for a record eighth time, making history at SW19 in a final that saw extraordinary scenes of his heartbroken opponent, Marin Čilić, in tears midway through the match.
The Swiss player, who becomes the most successful men’s singles player ever at the championships, said: “It’s magical really. I just can’t believe it yet. It’s just too much, really.”
On one of the biggest days in world sport, a delighted the crowd witnessed the popular player cement his place as a Wimbledon Goat – greatest of all time – overwhelming Čilić 6-3, 6-1, 6-4. Only Martina Navratilova, with nine, has won more singles titles.
With the lack of a Brit in the men’s final, a metaphorical Swiss flag flew over a highly partisan Henman Hill. Love flowed for this honorary national treasure who calls Wimbledon home and was making his 19th appearance in SW19 since his first in 1999. Sunday marked his 11th appearance in a Wimbledon final.
“Čilić,” said comedian Michael McIntyre, making his way toward the royal box, “Yes, he’s playing some Swiss guy, isn’t he?” before adding “Go Federer.” His allegiance was “like 99.98% of the people in front of you”, he said.
In the changeover after losing the third game of the second set, the 6ft 6in Croatian giant, playing with an injury, broke down in tears.
He managed to compose himself, with the help of his medical team, receiving a standing ovation as he resumed play to some encouraging shouts of “Come on, Marin”. Soon afterwards he took medical time out while his foot was strapped, but he never fully recovered, continuing to remain emotional between games.
Federer himself was in tears immediately after winning as his two sets of twins – seven-year-old daughters and three-year-old sons – were brought to the players box to see their father presented with thepineapple-topped trophy.
Holding the cup, he expressed “disbelief” at his record, he said: “I kept on believing and dreaming and here I am today with the eighth – fantastic.”
“I hope this wasn’t my last match [at Wimbledon] and I hope I can come back next year and try to defend the title.”
Asked later if he would return to defend his title, Federer said: “I hope I am back, there is never a guarantee at 35/36.
“Wimbledon will always be my favourite tournament. My heroes walked the grounds here and walked the courts here.” He added: “To mark history at Wimbledon really means a lot to me because of all of that. It’s that simple.”
Čilić said later his tears were of frustration and a culmination of emotions because of a painful blister on his foot, for which he had been receiving treatment for the previous 30 hours. “I was just feeling that I knew I couldn’t give my best on the court,” he said.
He said the defeat was “devastating”, that “emotionally I knew on such a big day I am unable to play my best tennis”. He added it was ”a culmination of emotions because I knew how much it took for me to get here.”
At 35 years and 342 days, Federer is the oldest to win the men’s singles in the open era, and the first since Björn Borg 41 years ago, to win without losing a set in the fortnight.
Records give him motivation and inspiration, Federer has said, and they fired up the fans, too.
“Brilliant”, “awesome”, “phenomenal” ,“a machine” were some of the breathless descriptions from those crowded on to Henman Hill to watch on the big screen.
“Superhuman, that’s the word,” enthused Italian-born fan Shannon Santangelo. “I mean, he’s even got two sets of twins.” Her boyfriend, Nick Petrie, decided on “timeless”, though he was Swiss in his neutrality. “I just want to see a really good game of tennis,” he said.
In an Andy Murray-Federer face-off, the Scot would have claimed most allegiance. “You’ve got to be patriotic,” said Ann Farmer, from Halstead, Essex, relieved it wasn’t a choice. “But Federer is awesome. It’s his drive, his passion. He is a phenomenal tennis player.” Her friend, Terri Ince, glanced around. “You might as well put everyone down for Federer,” she deduced.
Čilić fans were thin on the ground. The Wimbledon Channel, the championship’s TV station, found two, one of whom wearing a Croatian national team football shirt. “We can make a lot of noise,” he joked. They would have to.
“We saw one in the queue, but he was afraid to say it too loudly as he was surrounded by Federer fans,” said Santangelo.
Until Čilić’s breakdown, for those with no view on the Hill, charting the match was simple. Loud screams, cheering and applause had signified a Federer point, while silence denoted one won by his opponent. After, the mood changed, and the crowd became more subdued, though applause and cheering was more forthcoming for the Croat.
One Murray did lift a trophy at this year’s championships. Andy’s big brother, Jamie, and mixed doubles partner Martina Hingis enjoyed a 6-4, 6-4 victory over the defending champions, Briton Heather Watson and Finland’s Henri Kontinen.
With a Briton on each side of the net, Jamie admitted: “It was a bit strange. I guess the crowd was a bit split. But it was a great success for British tennis to have two guys in the final.”
Hingis said that with one Briton guaranteed to win, “I was hoping it was going to be mine”.
In centre court’s royal box on the final day, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were joined by the prime minister, Theresa May, and the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, as well as actors Bradley Cooper, Hugh Grant and Eddie Redmayne. Sporting royalty included golfer Justin Rose and tennis stars of bygone days Stefan Edberg, Chrissie Evert and Rod Laver.