James Lawton: Federer's dream may signal dawn of a new era

Flawless display by modest 21-year-old evokes memories of Centre Court legends and may prove to be a portent for years of domination

A few days ago the talk was of tennis as a dying art form. Such luminaries as John McEnroe and Boris Becker put their names to an official letter. Ban rackets as big as mechanical shovels, they pleaded.

But all that sounds like old history now. It did, after all, come before the dawning of the time of Roger Federer.

The 21-year-old Swiss explored every nuance of the game so superbly, hitting so many exquisite grace notes, that he left just one question lingering in a stunned and marvelling Centre Court yesterday after beating Mark Philippoussis in three straight sets of an unanswerable claim on the men's singles title.

The question was straightforward enough. Had Federer, whose winning temperament has been questioned more or less permanently since he lowered the banner of the great Peter Sampras on his first appearance in Centre Court two years ago, ushered a new epoch of the game, one in which he might just dominate as great players like Bjorn Borg and Sampras did before him? Or was this just one brief flowering of genius? There is no more intriguing question in the game of tennis.

Philippoussis, who earlier in the tournament had drawn out and beaten the best of what is left of Andre Agassi's game, admitted that he couldn't live with the beautifully rounded performance of his conqueror - but he would only give half an answer to the enquiry which is surely firing the imagination of all who saw an effort that was as thrilling as the turn of a thoroughbred's hoof at Tattenham Corner or the shuffling one-two dance of a Muhammad Ali.

The big man said: "Obviously he is so very talented, but he can do everything on the court. He's comfortable with serve and volleying, as he showed today. So it's quite simple really... when you have a great day everything looks great, everything's perfect. So he definitely deserves today.''

But if he took the day, does he also claim the future? Federer, who broke down when the full impact of what he had achieved hit him as he walked back to his courtside chair after the moment of victory, was in no mood for triumphalism. Sampras's seven Wimbledon titles represented, he suggested, an improbable peak even for a man who grew up in the shadow of the Alps.

He said: "This is just one of Sampras's seven titles, you know. I'm so far away from that I am just happy to be on the board. It's so nice to think of that when you look at all the players who have won here, so many of them have been idols to me. Just to be on the board with Borg and these people, to be part of history at Wimbledon, well it's incredible.''

Such modesty is already being invaded by dazzling hopes - and possibilities.

One was provoked by the climax to one of a series of astonishing rallies which saw Federer, who had worked Philippoussis around the court as a great matador might a ferociously frustrated bull, step forward to produce a drop shot of uncanny touch and crowning self-confidence. A Spanish observer, old enough to have seen the artistry of his countrymen Manuel Santana, could not resist a cry of "Ole!"

Later tennis experts were listing the qualities that had gone into a performance that rarely strayed from perfection. The consensus was that he has shown the smooth variety of Sampras's serve, the icy control of Borg and the subtle and original stroke selection of Santana.

On top of these technical virtues was the overwhelming sense of a sensitive young man who had finally delivered of the talents he displayed as a junior champion of Wimbledon. He paid tribute to the late Peter Carter, his Australian coach who died in a car crash and clearly left a hole in his protégé's life. "I hope he was watching from somewhere because he was one of the people I am thinking of now - one of the people who helped me get here to this day."

Federer talked us back to the moments that brought his tears of joy. "You know,'' he said, "when he hit the passing return you think, 'Oh, it's going to be a tough volley', then it stays in the net and you don't really know what to do in that first moment of winning. I just knew that I was going to go down on the floor and enjoy it and then see what happened. Maybe, I thought hopefully, I won't cry but it's kind of difficult in such a big situation in an unbelievable stadium.

"What did I think about? You know it was just that I couldn't believe it. That is really what was going through my mind in those first moments when I sat down on my chair... you get a quick flashback but in the first moments you are just overwhelmed. Then you see the trophy and it's so beautiful. Gold. You don't have golden trophies very often. Then you have it in your hands and you are holding something you've always dreamed of. You ask yourself 'This is true right now? Am I dreaming?'''

No, he wasn't dreaming but like everyone else in the Centre Court, he could have been excused for thinking so.

This was a performance for the gods. It was also a thrilling portent for years ahead.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Sport
footballMan City manager would have loved to have signed Argentine
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Sport
Enner Valencia
footballStriker has enjoyed a rapid rise to fame via winning the title with ‘The Blue Ballet’ in Ecuador
Arts and Entertainment
A top literary agent has compared online giant Amazon to Isis
arts + entsAndrew Wylie has pulled no punches in criticism of Amazon
Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would
tv

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

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

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities