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Wimbledon 2017: Roger Federer’s journey to greatness has been no bed of roses

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AFP PHOTO / Glyn KIRK

It’s official. Roger Federer is the greatest of all time on the hallowed turf of Wimbledon after claiming a record eighth men’s singles crown with victory over Marin Cilic.

Before Sunday, Federer was tied on seven titles with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw but his Sunday’s victory sees him move clear at his own top of the list. It was a sensational return for the 35-year-old, who was thrilling the crowd at SW19 over past two weeks. The Swiss Maestro marches on as the likes of Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal fell by the wayside.

From racket-smashing infant terrible with a bad attitude and ill-advised ponytail to universal respected sporting role model and modern icon, Roger Federer surely has come a long way.


14 years after winning his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, Federer has clinched a historic eighth at the All England Clun and 19th major. Victory over Marin Cilic made the 35-year-old the oldest man to win Wimbledon. On court, his successes have brought him more than $100 million in prize money and now 93 career titles. Off it, he is the father of two sets of twins, Myla Rose and Charlene Riva and Leo and Lenny with wife Mirka, a former player he met at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. But his career and life weren’t always so settled. As a talented young player, Federer’s on-court tantrums and hair-trigger temper once threatened to stunt his progress.

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Federer defeated Pete Sampras at 2001 Wimbledon but was knocked out in the first round the following year. It took a personal tragedy for Federer to press the reset button. He just turned 21, his coach and close friend from his formative years Peter Carter was killed in a car crash in South Africa. From that time, Federer committed himself to winning in style, with grace and not dictated to by his inner demons.

Federer started playing tennis at eight. He won his first ATP title in Milan in 2001 and racked up his trophies every year since with the exception of 2016, the year he shut down after a semifinal loss at Wimbledon. And the rest is history, in 2017 Federer won his 18th major at the Australian Open beating old rival Rafael Nadal. During his career, he was at the top of the pile for 302 weeks. Federer now has eight Wimbledon’s breaking the tie of seven he shared with Pete Sampras.

Had he not competed in the same era as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, his trophy collection could have been more impressive — he has lost nine finals at the majors to his two great rivals. His stunning longevity has seen him play 102 matches at Wimbledon, 100 in Melbourne, 89 at the US Open and 81 at Roland Garros. And despite those impressive numbers, Federer admits he still battles serious nerves before a big tennis occasions.

Interestingly, with his 36th birthday in three weeks’ time, Federer says he has not set any date for retiring from the sport. Federer won his eighth Wimbledon crown without dropping a set. In his semi-final defeat, Berdych saw no indication that Federer was showing any sign of advancing years.

“If you look at the other guys who are 35, 36, I think you can very clearly see that age and the years on tour are affecting them,” said the Czech. “But not him.”