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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, July 16, 2017

Roger Federer

In a final devoid of drama, 35-year-old Roger Federer soared to his record eighth Wimbledon championship with a crushing 6-3, 6-1, 6-4, conquest of a depleted Marin Cilic

Photo credit: Ashley Western/CameraSport

Wimbledon’s Centre Court is a tennis cathedral.

Piercing the solitude with powerful reverence for the moment, Roger Federer turned tennis’ most sacred lawn into a rousing revival house.

Watch: Federer Breaks Down In Tears

In a final devoid of drama, the 35-year-old Federer soared to his record eighth Wimbledon championship with a crushing 6-3, 6-1, 6-4, conquest of an emotionally depleted Marin Cilic.

It is Federer's first Wimbledon championship since 2012 and the most overwhelming final victory of his SW19 career. 

Eighteen years after his first Wimbledon match, Federer surpassed Pete Sampras, the man who famously called Centre Court "a tennis cathedral" as the all-time Wimbledon men's singles champion.

A free-flowing Federer played dynamic tennis sweeping his 19th Grand Slam championship—and second of the season following his inspired comeback win over Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final—without surrendering a set in the tournament. Federer is the first man since the legendary Bjorn Borg in 1976 to win Wimbledon without permitting a set.

“I guess its disbelief that I can achieve such heights,” said Federer, who won two Grand Slams in a season for the first time since 2009. “I wasn’t sure if I was ever gonna be here again in another final after last year. I always believed that maybe I can come back and do it again.

"If you believe you can go really, really far in your life. I’m really happy. I kept believing and dreaming and winning the eighth it’s fantastic.”

The third-seeded Federer dropped serve just four times in seven tournament victories and snuffed out the only break point he faced in the fourth game of the final.

First-time Wimbledon finalist Cilic shrunk on the game's grandest stage breaking down in tears after the first set, taking treatment for a blister on his left foot after the second set and looking helpless to slow the revitalized Swiss.

“I gave my best that’s all I can do,” Cilic said. “I have had an amazing journey here. Played the best tennis of my life and really want to thank my team, they gave so much strength to me. Of course, to all my fans in Croatia it was really, really tough today. I gave it my all and hopefully I’m gonna come back here and try it one more time.”

While Cilic shed tears during the match, Federer wept into his towel after attaining another major milestone.

“(It was) sinking in that it was actually really happening or that it already happened,” Federer told ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi afterward. “I won Wimbledon for the record eighth time, wrote history and was about to hold the trophy again. It’s emotional and it’s nice so I was very happy.”

Federer’s family and friends in the support box—wife Mirka and their two sets of twins, father Robert and mom Lynette—were beaming with joy as the sun popped out from a cluster of crowds as if the sky was celebrating as well.

It was an astounding Centre Court comeback for Federer, who limped off after losing to Milos Raonic in the semifinals last July to rehab his surgically-repaired knee uncertain if he would return.

A revitalized Federer is the oldest men's Wimbledon champion in the Open Era collecting his fifth title in seven tournaments this season.

A year ago, Federer and Cilic met in the Wimbledon quarterfinals.

In a match of staggering intensity and stunning plot twists, Federer fought off three match match points rallying from a two-set deficit to edge Cilic, 6-7 (4), 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (9), 6-3, and advance to his 11th Wimbledon semifinal.

Today’s rematch was a mismatch.

"It was just a feeling that I know that I cannot give my best on the court," Cilic said of his tears. "That I cannot give my best game and my best tennis especially at this stage of my career at such a big match. It was very difficult to deal with it. That was the only thing. Otherwise, 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.”

As Cilic struggled with emotional distress and panicked under the pressure of the moment, a dominant Federer deconstructed the towering Croatian with ruthless elegance.

“It is cruel sometimes,” Federer told Cilic and the crowd in his post-match interview. “He fought well. He’s a hero. Congratulations on a wonderful tournament, Marin, you should be really proud this is a special occasion to play in the finals.

“In the finals, it’s cruel, but be proud of yourself and I hope we can play sometime down the road some better ones.”

The best it got for Cilic was a brief glimpse of a break point in the fourth game.

The 6-foot-6 Cilic applied wide wing span effectively cutting off the slider serve and landing a forehand return in the corner helping him earn the first break point in the fourth game. Spinning a 96 mph second serve into the body, Federer erased it, eventually holding with some stinging serves.

Throughout the season, the 35-year-old Swiss has moved with the grace and fluidity of his younger years. Anticipation and closing speed helped carve out the first break.

Bursting out of the blocks to chase a drop shot, Federer improvised a forehand dropper. Cilic slide on his right foot and fell flat on his back angling a backhand reply. In a burst of speed, Federer flicked a backhand over the top of the net post for love-30. Cilic compounded that call crashing a shot long to face triple break point.

On his third break point, Federer banged a backhand eliciting a netted reply registering the first break for 3-2.

Slamming down a love hold, Federer had won 11 of the last 13 points stretching his lead to 4-2.

A churning backhand rattled out an error earning Federer a second set point. The tight Croatian skipped a second serve off the tape that dribbled wide as Federer cruised through four of the last five games collecting a one-set lead after 36 minutes.

Jitters plagued Cilic on serve: He served just 49 percent and Federer made him pay winning 11 of 18 points played on the Croatian’s second serve.

The seventh-seeded Cilic had not faced a Top 15-seed en route to the final dispatching 18th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut, 16th-seeded Gilles Muller and 24th-seeded Sam Querrey en route to his first Wimbledon final.

The 2014 US Open champion, whose lone victory over Federer came in the Flushing Meadows semifinal, simply couldn’t summon the lofty level of play or steely nerves necessary to test the Grand Slam king.

After dropping the opening set, a dispirited Cilic sat in his court-side seat with a white towel draped over his head reminiscent of 2010 finalist Vera Zvonareva.

Breezing through service games with self-assured speed, Federer stamped his third straight love hold to start the second set.

Immobilized by nerves and pained by the blister, Cilic sometimes struggled to set his feet and strike on balance as his game unraveled. Spraying his most reliable shot—the two-handed backhand—wide the 28-year-old baseliner surrendered serve for the second time in a row.

Slashing a slider serve out wide, Federer’s fourth consecutive love hold stretched the lead to 3-0.

By then, Federer had won 21 of 25 first-serve points and driven Cilic to tears.

An anguished Cilic called for the trainer and spent the ensuing changeover with tears streaming down his cheeks as the trainer placed his hand on the back of the bearded big man’s neck trying to console him.

Rising from his seat, Cilic tried to compose himself in the face of a serious thrashing and severe pressure.

Serving and volleying at times to shorten points, Cilic showed his athleticism with a terrific stab drop volley finally stopping the seven-time champion’s run of five straight games.

Knifing back a return off a 134 mph serve, Federer earned another break point in the sixth game. Ripping a pass his net-rushing opponent could not control, Federer converted his fourth break for 5-1.

Flashing his third ace, Federer seized a two-set lead after just 61 minutes of play.

Taking a second medical timeout, Cilic took treatment on his left foot, which was re-taped, and took a couple of tablets from the trainer.

That timeout seemed to soothe Cilic though he still experienced issues planting his foot and trying to push off on some groundstrokes.

Down 15-30 in the seventh game, Cilic ran around his backhand and flattened a forehand into net to face double break point. Slapping the same shot from nearly the same spot, Cilic surrendered serve as Federer snatched a 4-3 third-set lead.

Fittingly, Federer closed a monumental major victory in style slashing his eighth ace to seize his eighth crown with a lopsided one hour, 41-minute triumph.

The eight-time champion will rise to No. 3 when the new ATP rankings are released on Monday.

Raising the glimmering gold trophy to the sky while fans showered him with applause, Federer stands alone in tennis history.


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