Roger Federer has learned not to take anything for granted. That’s why he said what he did when handing over the trophy after his eighth Wimbledon league record: “I hope it wasn’t my last game. And I hope I can come back. next year and try to defend the title. “
Some have wondered if that means Federer is considering retiring. Barely. What he meant, Federer explained on Monday, was simply, “I can’t think too far.”
“I didn’t think about what I was going to say. It just came out like that, to show people that, yeah sure, I hope to defend my title and of course I wish I was back. here next year But we just don’t know if that’s really going to happen, âhe said after beating Marin Cilic 6-3 6-1 6-4 in the final.
He didn’t always take this approach, back in his twenties and achieved a record 10 Grand Slam finals in a row. Things are different these days.
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“At 25, when you win, you say to yourself: ‘Alright, see you next year!’ because it’s normal. You’re gonna play for sure. The body will be fine, most likely. And if it’s not next year, well, then the next year, you know? the corridors of Central Court in gray pants and a white zipped warm-up jacket.
“But I can’t really think two years ahead now. Let’s be honest.”
First of all, there is the inevitable question of his age: Federer will be 36 years old on August 8; he is the oldest man to win Wimbledon in the Open era, which began in 1968.
And then there’s what happened about 18 months ago: A father of four, he was preparing a bath for his twin daughters when he turned around and felt a “click” in his left knee. In February 2016, he underwent the first operation of his career, arthroscopic surgery to repair torn cartilage.
Federer returned to the tour in March, then missed the French Open due to persistent back problems, ending his record-breaking streak of 65 consecutive Grand Slam appearances. After losing in the semifinals at Wimbledon a year ago, he took the rest of the season to let his body heal, missing the US Open, the Rio Olympics and every other event.
âI have seen how quickly things can change,â Federer said.
“Filling a tub for my daughters really changed the next year of my tennis life.”
The past six months have gone well, however.
Federer is 31-2 with five league-leading titles in 2017. This includes his 18th Grand Slam trophy at the Australian Open – ending a 4-year drought without a major title – followed by his 19th at Wimbledon, where he became the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1976 to win the tournament without losing a set.
“Everything he does is exceptional,” said Jonas Bjorkman, Cilic’s coach.
âObviously he’s unique in so many ways. “
Federer himself is surprised at how well this year has gone.
He says he certainly didn’t expect to win the two majors he participated in (he missed the French Open again, using another break during the clay circuit to recharge himself before the brief leg. grass of the season).
Now he’s moving on to the hard courts, including the US Open, which begins August 28.
âI find it hard to think that I could win three Slams in a year. It just seems totally surreal to me,â said Federer, who won trios of major titles in 2004, 2006 and 2007. âBut I’m going to prepare myself for it. in the best possible way, so that I have the best chance to really excel there in New York. ”
Her voice was deeper than usual, a little after the early hours celebrations which included the Wimbledon Champions’ dinner and drinks with a group of over 30 friends at a bar. Federer said he didn’t fall asleep until 5 a.m.
Here he is, about 6 hours later, returning to the arena to pose for group photos with 200 tournament staff – goalies and others who sat in a corner of the stands as he took a seat. on a ledge of the court, the Wimbledon gold trophy next to him.
âEveryone says, ‘Swiss cheese!’ ‘Federer laughed.
Then he posed on the ground for a few final photos, a few steps away from a small green sign with white letters saying, “Keep grass. “
So, yeah, expect him to come back to that turf again in 2018. Remember not to take his excellence for granted. He won’t.