Roger Federer has won his eighth Wimbledon championship, outclassing a visibly and physically overwhelmed Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 on Centre Court.
Two years on from his last final appearance and five years after his last victory, Federer took less than two hours to wrap up a record-breaking 19th grand slam title, one hour and 41 minutes for the tens of thousands of Federer aficionados inside Centre Court and outside to savor the solstice of the Swiss legend's incredible Indian Summer.
"Henman Hill" was full to bursting with over an hour until the start of play and, judging by the reactions to Federer's appearance on the big screen, they were only backing one man. With home favorite Andy Murray out in the quarterfinal, the home crowd had long since switched their allegiance to their second - or arguably first - love
Unfortunately for Cilic, they don't like an underdog at the All England Club. Not really. The cynic would suggest they merely want to bask in Federer's reflected glory once a year. And with the quality that the he continues to produce at the age of 35, there's more than enough of that to go around.
World No. 8 Cilic may have been short of support on Centre Court but the 2014 US Open champion wasn't lacking fight. Indeed, the "RF"-branded masses had to endure one brief moment of discomfort in the fourth game of the first set, but the Croatian was unable to take the first break point of the final. Instead, the regal Federer recovered his poise, broke himself in the sixth game and ultimately took the first set 6-3 in just 36 minutes.
Cilic smashed his racquet into the ground in frustration. Perhaps nerves were getting the better of him in his first Wimbledon final. The support wasn't there, but the necessary quality wasn't either. There were no such issues for Federer though. Drawing on the experience of 10 previous finals, seven of which he'd won, the Swiss master quickly sprinted into a 3-0 second-set lead.
At the change of ends however, Cilic looked in trouble. A physical impediment wasn't immediately apparent - although later reports revealed he was struggling with blisters - but the seventh seed sobbed in his chair as the medical team and tournament supervisors attended to him. Had the emotion of the occasion got to him?
"Centre Court on Wimbledon final day is a frightening place," sympathized German three-time Wimbledon winner Boris Becker in commentary for the BBC. It certainly is when you've just been swatted aside by the greatest player to have ever played the game.
Whatever the issue, it seemed to get the crowd onside, the spectators taking a break from their Federer-worshipping to welcome Cilic back to the court with an almighty roar. Finally, recognition that there were two men in this final. And it had an effect, albeit briefly, as a rejuvenated Cilic won a comfortable game, avoiding the unwinnable baseline rallies by going serve-and-volley on almost every point.
There was to be no sympathy from over the net though. Federer's calm demeanor and impeccable style conceal an inextinguishable fire, a raging competitiveness which has seen him achieve what he has. Less than half an hour after taking the first set, he'd taken the second 6-1. Cilic's physios were back on court, but no medical treatment could help him match the Swiss deity.
Not only was Federer's on-court mastery clear, this exhibition was the result of clever career-management too. Federer's astute recognition that, at the age of 35, his body is perhaps not as indestructable as it once was, led him to pull out of the French Open.
The benefits have been clear to see over the course of two weeks in which injury and fatigue appeared to get the better of Murray and Novak Djokovic, leaving the draw open for Federer to triumph without even losing a set.
And that, judging by the reactions, is precisely what the fans wanted to see.Matt Ford