Up in the players' box on Centre Court, Roger Federer's twin daughters squirmed, yawned, made funny faces and then applauded the new Wimbledon champion.
Up in the players’ box on Centre Court, Roger Federer’s twin daughters squirmed, yawned, made funny faces and then applauded the new Wimbledon champion.
The girls turn 3 this month. They were 6 months old the last time Federer won a Grand Slam title.
“The victory today is a dream come true for me and my family, you know, seeing them there,” he said. “It’s big.”
At 30, Federer showed the kids what he can do, and strengthened his contention he’s far from finished. Federer ended a Grand Slam drought and equaled a Wimbledon record by winning the tournament for the seventh time Sunday, beating Andy Murray of Britain, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.
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For months Federer had been widely viewed as a champion in decline, eclipsed by Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Now he has won a 17th major title, padding his record, and he’s back atop the ATP rankings for the first time since June 2010, matching Pete Sampras’ record of 286 weeks at No. 1.
In less than three weeks, Federer will be back at Wimbledon trying to win his first Olympic singles gold medal. He’ll be tough to beat in a setting where he plays his best tennis.
“I feel better here for some reason,” he said. “I don’t know why, but it’s very unique and special in many ways.”
He matched the record of seven Wimbledon titles set in the 1880s by William Renshaw and tied in 2000 by Federer’s hero, Sampras. And while he ended his own 2 1/2-year Grand Slam dry spell, he extended decades of frustration for the British, who haven’t had a homegrown men’s champion since 1936.
Murray, a Scotsman, was the first Brit to make the men’s final since 1938. In anticipation of the match, fans camped out overnight in the rain just for a grounds pass so they could watch on a large video screen near the practice courts.
The Royal Box audience included British Prime Minister David Cameron, soccer star David Beckman and Prince William’s wife, the former Kate Middleton. Murray tried to give them a good show, taking an early lead and then losing a close second set when he was broken in the final game.
The match began in sunshine, but rain interrupted play early in the third set, and the retractable roof was closed for a singles final for the first time since it was added in 2009.
And while Federer is good on grass, it turns out he’s especially good indoors on grass.
“When the roof closed, he played unbelievable tennis,” Murray said.
“I played terrific,” he said.
Coming into the match, Federer had won 20 of his 74 titles indoors. With wind eliminated as a factor, he can swing even more aggressively and hit his pinpoint serves with even more accuracy.
That’s what happened. A 26-point, 20-minute game in the third set proved pivotal and provided the match’s most memorable moments. Murray fell to the grass three times during the game, but also saved five break points before he was finally broken to give Federer a 4-2 lead.
Federer held every service game the rest of the way. With the win, he became the first thirtysomething man to win Wimbledon since Arthur Ashe in 1975, and he reclaimed the No. 1 ranking from Djokovic.
Federer lost in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2010 and 2011, then blew a two-set lead against Djokovic in the U.S. Open semifinals last year, when he squandered two match points.
There was speculation that parenthood had cost him his edge, and that his best days were behind him.
“I understand everyone wants to be the first to have mentioned it or said it first that, `OK, this is the decline,'” he said. “I see it more as a steppingstone, a period I have to go through. I knew how close I was for the last few years.”
Now, with Federer’s fortunes on the rebound, men’s tennis remains compelling and competitive at the top. For the first time since 2005, the first three major tournaments have been won by three different players.
Djokovic won the Australian Open in January. Nadal won a record seventh French Open title last month.
And then there’s Murray, now 0-4 in Grand Slam finals, with three of those losses to Federer. The only other man in the Open era to lose his first four major finals was Ivan Lendl, who happens to be Murray’s coach.
Lendl went on to win eight Grand Slam titles. Murray believes he’ll yet make a breakthrough, perhaps even at Wimbledon, where he became the first Brit to reach the men’s finals since 1938.
“I’m getting closer,” his told the crowd during the trophy ceremony, fighting back tears. He accepted a hug from Federer, and a moment later they were both laughing.
Federer then told the crowd he’ll be rooting for Murray in the future.
“He’ll at least win one Grand Slam,” Federer said. “This is what I hope for Andy.”
Now that his drought has ended, there might be more majors in Federer’s future, too.