Wimbledon 2017: Roger Federer wins his 19th major
ALREADY a legend, Roger Federer has elevated even higher into the grand slam stratosphere with an eighth Wimbledon triumph and 19th major success.
Defying age and wounded Marin Cilic, the 35-year-old snared another large chunk of history with a runaway 6-3 6-1 6-4 victory at the sport's spiritual home.
Hampered by left foot soreness, Cilic struggled to reproduce the sparkling form which had carried him to a maiden All England Club final, dissolving in tears as his hopes slipped away.
The US Open winner slipped over in the fifth game and, rattled, lost seven of the next eight games - and he failed to threaten thereafter.
His pile-driving serve deserted him and unforced errors flowed in shattering disappointment.
As usual, Federer showed no mercy as he ended a five-year title drought at Wimbledon, adding to his 2003-07, '09 and 2012 crowns.
With 22 winners and a mere eight unforced errors, Federer was classes above his hobbled opponent.
A tiny blister foiled months of preparation and Cilic's lifelong dream. One of the sport's more resolute characters, Cilic was reduced to tears after a callous on his left foot rendered him vulnerable to rampant Federer in a lopsided Wimbledon final.
"It was definitely one of the unfortunate days for me to happen. I got a really bad blister," Cilic said.
"Fluid just came down under my callous in the foot. Every time I had to do a reaction fast, fast change of movement, I was unable to do that. Obviously was very tough emotionally because I know how much I went through last few months in preparation with everything. It was also tough because of my own team.
"They did so much for me. I just felt it was really bad luck. But in any point, obviously if the score would go really badly, I wouldn't push it so much. But I really wanted to give my best to try as much as I could."
Cilic collapsed in tears at 0-3 in the second set as the realisation struck his Wimbledon dreams had turned to nightmares.
"It was very, very difficult to deal with it," he said.
"It didn't hurt so much that it was putting me in tears. It was just that feeling that I wasn't able to give the best. For me was actually very difficult to focus on the match, as well, as my mind was all the time blocked with the pain.
"It was tough for me to focus on the tactics, on the things that I needed to do. I wasn't serving very good today because of that. Also, you know, I was just not able to set up properly on the balls. It was very, very tough to deal with it.
"With that loss today, obviously it's a sad one, it's a devastating one, but I'm still very proud and thankful for all my team that was helping me to get here. It was just emotionally that I knew on such a big day that I'm unable to play my best tennis, in physical, and in every single way. That was just a little bit combination of all emotions because I know how much it took for me to get here."
A year ago it was Federer's turn to limp out of the All England Club in despair. He is now on track to regain the world No. 1 ranking for the first time in five years.
The Swiss was deposed by Novak Djokovic in 2012, ending a cumulative record 302-week reign and he slipped to No. 17 last year when sidelined with a knee problem.
But after the miracle Australian Open, the Wimbledon blitz and three other titles this season from just seven events, Federer could unseat Andy Murray at the US Open next month.
By notching an unmatched eighth Wimbledon spoil, and his 93rd career title, Federer wound back the clock to the halcyon days of 2009 - the last season he annexed multiple majors.
He tormented Cilic into two service breaks in the opening set, the second with a lame double fault which so enraged the Croat he hammered his racquet into his courtside chair at the end of the first set.
The barrage continued into the second as Cilic trailed 0-3 before the Croat started sobbing at the changeover, his head buried in a towel.
Surrounded by the tournament doctor, referee and trainer, Cilic soldiered on - only to lose serve with an errant forehand volley to fall further behind at 1-5.
Cilic had treatment on his left foot at the end of the set but it made no difference as Federer strode towards history.
Urged on by a centre court crowd desperate to avoid the tournament's first retirement in a men's final since 1911, Cilic lifted.
But another tentative forehand mis-hit ruined his flickering hopes as Federer snatched another service break in the third.
Serving for the championships with new balls, Federer closed it out after 101 minutes with his eighth ace.
Federer's victory ensured the world's most important title remained in the possession of the Big Four.
No player other than Federer (eight), Novak Djokovic (three), Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray (two titles each) has won Wimbledon since Lleyton Hewitt in 2002.
Federer is only the second man in history to win eight titles at the same grand slam behind Rafael Nadal, who claimed his eighth French Open in 2013 - and his 10th last month.
The Swiss master's 19th grand slam success leaves him four majors clear of Nadal, who is four years younger.
At 35 years and 342 days, Federer is the oldest man in the Open era (post-1968) to win the Wimbledon title.
And he is the second oldest to win a major in the professional era behind Ken Rosewall, who was 37 years and 62 days when he won the 1972 Australian Open.
Rosewall (three times) and Federer (twice) are the only players to win multiple majors after turning 35.
Only Jimmy Connors (1974-82) has had to wait longer than Federer between Wimbledon titles.
Contesting his 102nd match at Wimbledon, Federer notched his 91st victory at the All England Club - seven more than next-best Connors (84).
And he completed the feat without dropping a set in seven matches, marking only the second player in the Open era after Bjorn Borg in 1976 to do so here.
Federer's grand slam wins
Australian Open - 2004, '06-07, 2010, '17
French Open - 2009
Wimbledon - 2003-07, '09, 2012, '17
US Open - 2004-08
Grand slam leaderboard
Roger Federer (Sui) - 19
Rafael Nadal (Spa) - 15
Pete Sampras (US) - 14
Roy Emerson (Aus), Novak Djokovic (Srb) - 12
Bjorn Borg (Swe), Rod Laver (Aus) - 11
Originally published as Flawless Federer wins eighth crown