“When I won in 2003, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would win Wimbledon and have my kids seeing me lift the trophy, so this is pretty surreal. And yeah, I was almost shocked in the moment that it all came together so nicely.” –Roger Federer
In a nation where tears can change allegiance and generate sympathy like the Philippines, Marin Čilić looked like the conqueror rather than the vanquished.
In fact, if Čilić, a Croatian, were Filipino, his countrymen would have cried, “We wuz robbed!” with alarming intensity as some of them would violently parrot each time boxing icon Manny Pacquiao was beaten on points in a square jungle.
Sports’ oft-repeated phrase, “the agony of defeat”, was best summed up in the most memorable shot of the Wimbledon men’s final on July 16 in London when Čilić’s Cinderella-like rise ended in a bizarre episode that saw him sobbing into a towel with two medics and the tournament referee crouched at his feet.
Čilić’s tears made him look like a winner, in the eyes of many Filipino fans.
Only Čilić knows how much his tears were owing to the pain of a massive blister on his left foot and how much it was being overcome by the significance of the occasion and his inability to rise to it, observes analyst Martha Kelner.
But ironically, it took an outpouring of emotion to reportedly garner some support from a Centre Court crowd wildly in favor of Roger Federer, who at 35, became the oldest men’s winner of Wimbledon’s modern era.
Federer claimed his 19th Grand Slam title 6-3, 6-1, 6-4, succeeding Arthur Ashe, who was almost 32 when he won in 1976.
The Swiss superstar’s 11th Wimbledon final, and 29th at the majors, will also be remembered for the moving sight of the popular Čilić breaking down in tears after slipping 3-0 behind in the second set.
The seventh seeded and the 2014 US Open champion Croatian, sobbed inconsolably and buried his head in his towel as his title dream slipped away.
Historians recall that only one Wimbledon singles final, both in the men’s and the women’s, has ended in a retirement and that was back in 1911 but it seemed another might be on the cards.
Somehow Čilić composed himself enough to continue and was cheered to the rafters by a crowd keen not to be short-changed as the Croatian made his way to serve.
Of all Federer’s 29 slam finals, this was arguably the most one-sided and a second set was sealed as neatly as his on court attire.
Kelner recalls that the last time someone came from two sets behind to win the Wimbledon final was Henri Cochet beating Jean Borotra in 1927. But this match never felt like bestowing such a heroic comeback.
“A 119mph ace from the Čilić to keep the match alive with the faintest of pulses in the third set was cheered raucously. But the title was soon Federer’s and he too produced the waterworks at the sight of his four children being brought into his box,” concludes Kelner./WDJ