Federer: the dawning of a new sun king

Great and good of the game unite in wonder at artistry and artillery of a champion reaching his peak

Such has been the Alp-high adulation heaped on Roger Federer in the last few days by assorted authorities on the game and in the game that the Wimbledon champion must be glad of one thing: that he is Swiss, not British. Just imagine the Henman-type hoopla if Roger the Terminator were about to go out and win the Gentlemen's Singles Championship for the old country.

Boris Becker, pretty high-profile himself on the lawns of SW19 in his time, is particularly taken by Federer, who is, he says, "playing the game in a way that I haven't seen anyone play before". Becker adds: "Federer's levels are levels above everyone else's, and if he stays healthy and motivated he is the kind of guy who can overtake the greatest."

The fact that Federer is doing so well despite having sacked his coach, Peter Lundgren, towards the end of last year is, according to John McEnroe, "living proof that you don't need a coach". For Andrew Castle, "he makes it look as though he was born to do this, and that this is his stage", while John Lloyd is entranced by "his ability to hit winners from any part of the court and to make the difficult look easy".

Though, strangely, he managed occasionally to make the easy look difficult yesterday, Federer eventually saw off Sébastien Grosjean in straight sets inside half an hour when they resumed their semi-final at noon on Centre Court. He needed four match-points to do the job, and in the process of winning in straight sets, 6-2 6-3 7-6, dropped serve for only the second time at this Wimbledon.

When the players were driven off Centre Court by a combination of rain and poor light on Friday evening, Federer was 4-3 ahead in the third set. He should have wrapped it up in three games. Leading 5-4, he held two match-points on the Grosjean serve, but a combination of bold serving by the Frenchman and a couple of erratic forehand returns by Federer kept Grosjean alive.

Even worse was to follow for someone whose path has been exceptionally smooth so far. An outrageous forehand mis-hit put the Swiss break-point down, and he dropped serve on another forehand error, for only the second time this fortnight. However, any ambitions Grosjean had of extending the match into a fourth set and possibly putting back the start of the women's final were rapidly disabused. Clearly nettled at his own poor play, Federer broke Grosjean with contemptuous ease, concluding with a breathtaking cross-court forehand which bulleted past the incoming 10th seed.

But Federer was not to get away without a further indication that, on given days, he can be fallible. He allowed Grosjean to run up a 4-0 lead in the tie-break before sweeping the next five points, missing a third match-point at 6-5 and then conjuring another with a delicate forehand drop-shot and finishing it off, matador fashion, with a trademark smash. That combination of touch and tempest is what makes Federer so special a player and so difficult for the opposition to read. No shot seems beyond the scope of his sharp eye and powerful wrist, and his cross-court groundstrokes on both wings are things of beauty.

He is a marketing person's dream. How fortuitous, then, that Federer's parents and his girlfriend, Miroslava Vavrinec, known as Mirka, have set up just such a company to sell the Basle-born player. His father, Robert, is Swiss and his mother, Lynette, is a South African who gave up her job with a pharmaceutical company to work full-time on promoting her son.

The company promptly brought out a perfume called "RF", and ever since there has been a sweet smell of success for him. He has won five titles so far this year, including his second Grand Slam victory at the Australian Open.

So does he, too, consider himself unbeatable now? "No," he said in the aftermath of the Grosjean match. "I always feel my opponent has a chance. Of course this year has been fantastic for me, but it's still very difficult for me to understand why and how I'm so dominant this year. Hardly lost a serve, hardly lost a set. For me, it's very difficult to explain how it comes. I just try to focus for every match, and it seems like it's really working out for me. I guess the grass suits my game."

It certainly does. Going into this afternoon's final Federer is riding a streak of 23 consecutive grass-court wins, eclipsing Pete Sampras, and if he retains the title he will be second-best to Bjorn Borg, who clocked up what is surely an unsurpassable 41 matches unbeaten at Wimbledon from 1976 to 1981.

"My goals for this year are to stay at No 1, to defend this title and to play well at the Olympics," said Federer. "After Sunday, one goal is gone, either positive or negative. But long-term, I don't have a big plan to win I don't know how many Grand Slams, or to win so many tournaments. I will rethink my goals for the next year at the end of this year."

While professing not to know whether he is a better player than the one who won Wimbledon last year, Federer added: "I think I am a more complete player, more secure. I know what I have to do now, whereas last year, because I had never won a Grand Slam, I didn't. That is the main change in me. This is only my third Grand Slam final and I'm very thrilled and very happy, even though my matches have been rather easy, so I couldn't make any somersaults."

As for feeling at home on Centre Court, Federer was modest. "I'm still very young and I still need some time to call it home. But I feel welcome, very welcome, in this place as a member now. The chairman [Tim Phillips] always says hello, we always like to chat."

Federer revealed that when he parted company with Lundgren, he received lots of offers of help. "A lot of people wanted to tell me what to do and what not to do because I was without a coach. In the beginning a lot of people came up to me and told me I needed help. A lot of people were writing me emails, telling me I was doing this or that wrong. But I just listened to the people I really trust and believe in. That is why I am taking my time over a new coach. I don't just want someone to travel with me. If I want to work with a coach again it will be to improve my game. Anything else would be wrong."

Finally, Federer admitted that he gets "very nervous" before a final. Just as well, then, that he is Swiss, and not British, on Centre Court this afternoon.

BUY WIMBLEDON TICKETS

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'