ROGER Federer surpassed the achievements of Pete Sampras and William Renshaw yesterday to become Wimbledon’s first-ever eight-time male singles winner – then said there were no guarantees that he would still be around next year to defend his title.
The Swiss, who will be closing in on his 37th birthday by the time next year’s tournament comes around, took six months off last year to recover from a knee injury, skipped Roland Garros earlier this year and pointedly told the Centre Court crowd that he “hoped” yesterday’s final wasn’t his last match on Centre Court. While he clarified that position a little, in the press conference afterwards to say that “I totally see myself playing here this time next year”, he said that at his age nothing was set in stone.
“Ever since I had the year I had last year, I do only think probably like a year ahead of time, with my schedule, fitness schedule, tournaments I would like to play,” he added. “I totally see myself playing here this time next year. But because it’s far away, because of what happened last year, I just wanted to take the opportunity to make them understand that, while I hope that I’m back, there’s never a guarantee, especially not at 35, 36. But the goal is definitely to be here again next year to try and defend.”
Federer, a 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 winner against the injury-hampered Marin Cilic, joked that he could still be playing here aged 40 – if he was cryogenically frozen. In truth, he claimed to have surprised even himself with his second Grand Slam of the season and had no idea how long this striking Indian summer in his career will last. “I guess you would have laughed if I told you I was going to win two slams this year.,” he said. “I also didn’t believe that I was going to win two this year. It’s incredible. I don’t know how much longer it’s going to last.”
While he had always said making history was “merely an extra motivation”, doing so at Wimbledon was “super special”. “Wimbledon was always my favourite tournament, will always be my favourite tournament,” said Federer. “My heroes walked the grounds here and walked the courts here. Number eight obviously means a lot to me because at that level, to be part of Wimbledon history, is truly amazing.”
While the Swiss served notice of his intent at this venue by knocking Sampras out of this tournament in 2001 – he lost to Tim Henman in the next round – he said he never dreamed of beating his record. I hoped to have a chance maybe one day to be in a Wimbledon finals and have a chance to win the tournament,” he said. “But winning eight is not something you can ever aim for, in my opinion. If you do, I don’t know, you must have so much talent and parents and the coaches that push you from the age of three on, who think o you like a project.
“I was not that kid. I was just really a normal guy growing up in Basel, hoping to make a career on the tennis tour. I guess I dreamed, I believed, and really hoped I could make it real.”