It was a memorable milestone for Roger Federer, who became the first man in the history of the Wimbledon Championships to lift the title eight times.
But it was not a memorable final. What we will remember is the despair of Marin Cilic, who came in carrying a damaged left foot – judging by the strapping around it – and then seemed to accentuate the problem when he slipped and fell in the fifth game of the match.
Early in the second set, the doctor and the trainer were called to attend Cilic at a changeover. His distress soon overwhelmed him and he sat weeping into his towel while Federer discreetly changed ends and returned to the court.
The spectators were concerned that that might be the end of the match. Already, ten men had retired from the court in these Championships because of injury, including Novak Djokovic in the quarter-final. The last time it happened in a men’s final was in 1911, and we can be confident that there were not 15,000 spectators watching that day, with a ticket costing almost £200 in their pocket.
Cilic did at least choose to continue, and as a result he pulled off a near-impossible feat: turning the crowd against Federer on Centre Court. It wasn’t that they wanted Cilic to win. They just wanted him to put up a fight, and extend the match somewhere close to the two-hour mark.
— SPORF (@Sporf) July 16, 2017
In terms of general competitiveness, the first four games represented the high-water mark. Cilic came out delivering the sort of thunderous groundstrokes that had shunted Federer backwards in their US Open final of 2014 – a match that Cilic unexpectedly won in straight sets.
He held a break point in the fourth game, but couldn’t find the court with his backhand return. And then his feet went out from under him, in both a literal and figurative sense, just a minute or two later. Federer won four of the next five games to clinch the first set.
After a brief and uncompetitive second set, Cilic took a medical time-out at the start of the third, and had his foot treated by the trainer. He stabilised a little thereafter, but the only real question was whether Federer would be able to maintain his concentration.
The answer was yes. Federer has played well over 1300 matches in his career. He might not have been in this situation before on Centre Court, but he has surely seen it elsewhere. And while the quality of tennis overall remained disappointing, he maintained enough pressure to rule out a Cilic comeback.
— NDTV (@ndtv) July 16, 2017
In the end, an ace clinched Federer’s 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 victory in 1hr 41min. It was the first time Federer had won Wimbledon without dropping a set, and only the second time anyone had done so in the Open era, after Bjorn Borg in 1976.
As for the fans, who might have felt a little short-changed, there was always the mixed-doubles showdown to look forward to: Jamie Murray and Martina Hingis against Heather Watson and Henri Kontinen.