This year’s Wimbledon brought many surprises and crowned champions new and old at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. On the gentlemen’s singles side, Roger Federer cemented his status as the greatest of all time and most certainly the greatest Wimbledon player of all time by winning the tournament and clinching a record 19th Grand Slam title. His 3-set, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 domination over Marin Čilić secured his record eighth Wimbledon Title, making him the only eight-time champion of the tournament. The man didn’t drop a set the entire way through. On the women’s side, Garbiñe Muguruza won her first Wimbledon singles title at just 23 years of age, defeating veteran female player and five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams in straight sets.
On the gentlemen’s doubles side, new champions Łukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo battled through four five-set matches to win their first Wimbledon doubles title, winning the championship in a thrilling 5-7, 7-5, 7-6, 3-6, 13-11 match against Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic. In women’s doubles, Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina dispatched Hao-Ching Chan and Monica Niculescu 6-0, 6-0 in just 55 minutes. Although this year unveiled many new champions, Federer’s victory stands above the others as he continues to break records and play some of the best tennis of his career.
Roger Federer’s victory was not entirely surprising, but still left many in the tennis community awed, including himself; Federer described the win as “magical.” Roger, 35, is the oldest man to win the Wimbledon singles title in the Open Era and broke the record of seven Wimbledon titles which he shared with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw. Federer had not won Wimbledon –or any Grand Slam– since 2012 (until this year), seeing his ranking fall to 17 in the world in January 2017 due to a 6-month injury layoff. It was the first time he ranked outside of the Top 10 since October 2002. After Federer broke his Grand Slam title drought in Australia earlier this year, tennis pundits and fellow players knew Federer would be formidable. It was the first time he beat Rafael Nadal at a Grand Slam other than Wimbledon.
In the months leading up to Wimbledon, Federer dominated in two ATP Masters 1000 tournaments. The Masters 1000 circuit, which is just under the Grand Slam tournaments in prestige, had been controlled by Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal for all of 2016, with Federer never even reaching the final of any of the nine tournaments. Then, Federer won the first two Masters of the year by dismantling countryman Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 7-5 in Indian Wells and, again, Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-4 in Miami.
After taking another break, this time for two and a half months, Federer returned to the ATP World Tour, losing his first match back. However, he quickly quelled rivals’ hopes when he won the Halle Open without dropping a set.
Federer’s return to Wimbledon, however, was flawless. In his first three rounds, he breezed through lower-ranking opponents Alexandr Dolgopolov, Dušan Lajović, and Mischa Zverev. Federer’s Round of 16 match against Grigor Dimitrov foreshadowed a thrilling match against Novak Djokovic in the semifinals and, if he won, against Andy Murray or Rafael Nadal in the finals. But Nadal’s five-set, nearly five-hour loss to Gilles Müller in the Round of 16 seemed to guarantee Murray a place in the final. In the Quarterfinals, more surprises came with Sam Querrey’s stunning five-set upset over Andy Murray. Furthermore, Djokovic, arguably Federer’s toughest competition at Wimbledon, retired to Tomáš Berdych. Federer had lost to Djokovic in the final in both 2014 and 2015; now, with Djokovic gone, it appeared as if Federer had already won the title.
In the semifinals, 2014 US Open champion Marin Čilić regained his composure after losing the first set to Querrey, defeating him in four sets. Federer won in straight sets over Berdych, who was playing extremely well. In fact, Boris Becker, Djokovic’s former coach, commented that Federer had “10 gears” and “whenever he’s in trouble he comes out with an even better shot.” He added that Berdych “played great under pressure,” but Federer’s performance is “what makes him the greatest of all time.” Becker also believed that Čilić would be “dangerous” in the final. After all, Čilić defeated Federer 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 at the 2014 US Open in New York and, last year, forced Federer to battle back from two sets down in a 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 3-6 loss at Wimbledon.
As Federer’s 11th Wimbledon final began, commentators noticed that Čilić looked “tight” early on. Federer’s early break also heightened Čilić’s nerves, who would go on to be plagued by a “huge blister”, and frustration. Federer broke again to secure the first set, 6-3. Federer had not lost a Grand Slam match after winning the first set since 2014, but he and experts knew that Čilić was dangerous. Čilić smashed his racket on his chair during the 6-3, 1-0 changeover, indicating he was mentally unraveling. Federer quickly won the next two games. Now, down 0-3, Čilić began to cry in his chair and some wondered if his slip in the first set hurt him more than he had initially let on. Čilić instilled some hope in his fans when he held serve to make the score 1-3, but ten minutes later Federer won the set 6-1.
In the third set, Čilić stepped up his level of play, but the pressure proved too much at 3-3. Federer secured a necessary break and the held his serve to make it 5-3. Minutes later, Federer was up 6-3, 6-1, 5-4 and 40-30. At championship point, Federer missed his first serve, but nailed a second-serve ace down the middle to secure another Wimbledon title. After the match, Banter Sports writer Nima Majidi said that, “while this year’s Wimbledon tournament was full of upsets, the champion was no surprise. Roger Federer played a great match, and proved why he is the greatest player.”
In the trophy ceremony interview, Čilić admitted, “it was really tough today,” but humbly congratulated Roger for his victory. Federer took the opportunity to congratulate Čilić and assuaged concerns of retirement, saying “I hope I can come back next year to try to defend the title.” Banter Sports Tennis Editor Nikhil Lahiri offered his insight, adding, “Federer seems to be playing the best tennis of his life at the astounding age of 35. He shouldn’t be slowing down anytime soon.”
Federer’s 19th Grand Slam title further extended his lead over other active tennis players. Nadal’s French Open victory last month placed him second with 15 Grand Slams. Meanwhile, Djokovic, who has been not in his best form as of late, trails at 12 Grand Slams. Perhaps Federer’s latest victory is due to the early exits of formidable rivals at this year’s Wimbledon Championships. Even so, his strong performance and consistent execution in matches makes him a dangerous opponent and a player to watch in the upcoming Masters 1000 tournaments in Montreal and Cincinnati and at the US Open, the last Grand Slam of the year. As he rises to 3 in the World, despite starting at 17 in the beginning of the year, many are excited to see if Federer can win more tournaments and perhaps even secure the “No. 1” ranking. Either way, he will surely be celebrating his 8th Wimbledon and his $2.9 million prize.