With Roger Federer at the top of his game — and his opponent, Marin Cilic, hobbled by a foot injury — the Swiss superstar seized his record eighth Wimbledon singles title on Sunday, winning in straight sets yet again.
For Federer, 35, the win breaks a tie he had held with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw. It also adds to his record for most Grand Slam singles championships, giving him 19. Federer's first win in Wimbledon came in 2003 — and after Sunday's victory, he said he'd like to come back next year.
"The tournament I played — not dropping a set and holding the trophy — it's magical. It's too much really," Federer said after the match. "I can't believe it yet."
Federer used one of his six aces to put the match away and spark a celebration in London. The final tally — 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 — hints at Cilic's struggles in the middle of this match, when a foot injury hindered his range and his ability to get to the net.
Moments after it was all over, Cilic said he wouldn't let himself give up after being hurt, saying, "I gave my best, and that's all I could do."
Of his opponent, Federer said, "it is cruel sometimes, but he fought well."
As for how Federer got here, NPR's Tom Goldman reports:
"Federer roared through the draw without losing a set, while his closest and younger rivals — Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic — have fallen prey to injuries and upsets. Federer says his decision to skip this year's clay court season has helped save his body for Wimbledon. After losing to Federer in the semifinals, Tomas Berdych said, quote, 'I don't see anything that would indicate Roger is getting older.' "
Federer broke through in the first set, taking a 3-2 lead after Cilic was unable to fend off a third breakpoint. Federer followed that up immediately with a brisk service game that gave him a 4-2 edge. He later broke Cilic again to take the first set, 6-3.
Midway through the first set, Cilic was sent sprawling as he lunged to deal with the angle and spin of Federer's shots — and despite Cilic reaching the ball in one long exchange, the Swiss was able to lift it cleanly back over the net for a winner.
From there, frustration seemed to build in Cilic — after the first set, he smacked his bag with his racket.
An unusual scene unfolded during the second set, after Federer raced to a 3-0 lead. That's when Cilic asked for medical attention, and looked to be weeping on the bench, where he sat for a number of minutes speaking to the medical staff. It didn't seem that Cilic received any treatment other than taking a couple of pills — presumably for either pain or inflammation.
When Cilic finally stood, grabbed his racket and walked back toward the baseline, the crowd rewarded him with loud applause. He then held serve to make it 3-1.
Federer won the second set, 6-1 — and in the changeover that followed, Cilic again summoned the doctor. This time, he took off his left shoe and had the physician look at his foot. As Federer sat snacking nearby, the doctor then wound tape around the ball of Cilic's foot.
Cilic seemed to adjust both his movements on the court and his strategy, and he found some success by staying back at the baseline and rarely venturing to the center of the net. With the third set even at 1-1, Cilic fended off Federer's threat to break his serve again.
In the games that followed, Cilic could be seen hopping and tapping his feet on his side of the court, trying to get life into his legs and give himself a chance against one of the game's legendary players. But it wouldn't be enough.
After the match, it was Federer's turn to weep on the bench, sobbing openly as he struggled to process what he'd accomplished, using a towel to wipe his face as his wife and four children watched from the stands.