Cilic crumbles as record-breaking Federer reigns supreme once more at Wimbledon
It took the 35-year-old just an hour and 41 minutes to clinch by far his most one-sided Wimbledon final triumph and extend his overall record with a 19th grand slam singles title.
The 6-3 6-1 6-4 victory continues Federer’s magnificent season in what should be his tennis dotage, but even the most ardent of the Swiss’ fans - and there were many packed into Centre Court - did not want the final to play out like this.
Cilic started well but it became clear early in the second set that something was badly wrong with the Croatian.
At 3-0, he sobbed uncontrollably into his towel as he discussed the situation with the doctor and it looked like he might not be able to continue.
There has only ever been one retirement in a Wimbledon men’s singles final, back in 1911, and Cilic at least had the support of the crowd as he opted to play through the pain.
He had what looked like blisters on his left foot taped at the start of the third set and willed himself to make it something of a contest.
Federer continued to do what he had to do and, after clinching victory with an ace, raised his fists in the air.
It was understandably a slightly muted celebration but the emotion came for Federer when he looked up to his wife Mirka and their four children in his player box.
It is the first time his three-year-old twin boys Leo and Lenny have seen him win Wimbledon, and Federer said: “They have no clue what’s going on. They probably think it’s a nice view and a nice playground. This is a wonderful moment for our family.”
A month short of his 36th birthday, Federer is the oldest man in the Open era to win the Wimbledon singles title.
He is also only the second man after Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros to lift the trophy eight times at a single slam and is now one short of Martina Navratilova’s all-time record.
With his 19th slam title, Federer restored his four-slam lead over Nadal, taking another step towards ensuring his legacy will be safe at least for this generation.
For the next generation, meanwhile, this was another kick in the teeth.
No player outside of Federer, Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray has won Wimbledon since 2002.
Djokovic and Murray’s dip in 2017 looked to have opened the door only for Federer and Nadal to slam it shut, locking out the first three slams for the first time since 2010.
It has been a remarkable turnaround for Federer, who took six months off to recover fully from knee surgery after losing here to Milos Raonic in the semi-finals 12 months ago.
“I’ve got to take more time off,” said Federer, who also chose not to play at all during the clay-court season.
“I’m not sure it’s going to work out like this every time. Better than holding the trophy and winning today is just being healthy. It just means the world to me.
“The tournament that I played, not dropping a set, it’s magical, I can’t believe it yet. It’s disbelief that I can achieve such heights.
“I wasn’t sure if I would ever be back here in another final after last year but I always believed I could come back, and if you believe in your life you can go a long way. I kept on believing and dreaming and here I am today.
“I hope this wasn’t my last match and I can come back next year and try to defend the title.”