Wimbledon 2017: Roger Federer eyes record eighth title – and it won't have been gifted to him
Roger Federer stands on the brink of securing a record eighth Wimbledon title as he prepares to take on Marin Cilic in Sunday's showpiece final, and it will not have been handed to him, writes Dan Quarrell at Wimbledon.
Inevitably, after the big names dropped like flies in the second week at SW19, it was being suggested that the Swiss was being effectively handed the record-clinching title – as though he only needed to turn up; as though he had been given it as a proverbial gift from his fellow pros.
Such talk is not only unfair on the likes of Tomas Berdych - who he beat 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 - and his opponent in the final, Marin Cilic, who have excelled themselves, but also does not do justice to the remarkable way Federer has managed his fitness, health and longevity, just as his rivals wilted all around him.
With world number one and defending champion Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic both having seen their form – and more tellingly their much-hailed fitness – finally desert them on the big stage, the 35-year-old has coasted through.
In reaching the final in absurdly comfortable fashion, Federer has become the second-oldest man to reach a Wimbledon final in the open era with the great Ken Rosewall having finished as the runner-up at the age of 39 back in 1974.
"I think he's the greatest of them all," said the defeated Berdych after he was unable to replicate his shock win over the 'GOAT' at the All England Club in 2010.
" He's just proving his greatness in the sport. He doesn't seem to be getting any older or slowing down."
In winning his 12th Wimbledon semi-final, Federer has put himself on the precipice of the eighth title which would separate him from once king of Centre Court, Pete Sampras, in the Open era and put him yet further ahead of the pack in the all-time greats debate.
Federer celebrates after beating BerdychGetty Images
Federer is the only member of the so-called "big four" left in the draw after Rafa Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic all failed to make it past the quarter-finals, but this should in no way detract from his achievement.
As with most sports, availability is often the most important ability and for all the Swiss maestro's class and talent, his masterful management of his own body in the latter stages of his career has been hugely impressive.
Murray, by his own admission, threw everything he had at reaching the very top of the men's game late last year and has suffered badly as a result of his demanding schedule and unbelievable feats of endurance and consistency.
Djokovic revealed after his retirement from Wimbledon that he may be forced to take a prolonged break from the sport altogether after his struggles to deal with a persistent elbow injury.
The men's singles at Wimbledon in 2017 may well be remembered in years to come as the unfortunate culmination of years of relentless slog in the cases of Murray and Djokovic, with inevitable injuries catching up with them.
Federer, though, appears to have taken his six-month break at just the right time, ready to pounce on his rivals' vulnerabilities and injury problems with ruthless precision.
Of course, no one can be as surprised and delighted at the sudden opening up of the draw as the man himself, but the timing of his post-break resurgence has been impeccable, coinciding as it appears to have with Murray and Djokovic having played themselves to an enforced standstill.
He deserves this moment; he deserves for his record-breaking Wimbledon title to be all about him; and he deserves to capitalise on a startlingly open draw in the latter stages and win a 19th Grand Slam title.
The fact that the 35-year-old is the last one standing in the fitness stakes out of the "big four" right now is testament to the way he has managed his body; his eighth Wimbledon title would be testament to his extraordinary talent.
"To be so close to number eight now is an unbelievable feeling," Federer said after reflecting on his 6-1 head-to-head record over Cilic ahead of Sunday's final. It will take something extraordinary for the Croat to defy his opponent's excitement.