Yes, Andy Murray last year was a fixture across broadcast, print and online media as Wimbledon fortnight headed to its Sunday conclusion. And he duly obliged by winning his second title.
This year, though, the fever-pitch anticipation is about another man entirely. Roger Federer has won this title seven times, the first of them 14 years ago, and has grown since then into one of the most popular athletes in the world. There is almost universal admiration for his elegant and charismatic style of attacking play, but also respect for the way he carries himself on and off court.
And fans flock to him, the pied piper of his sport. At Wimbledon this week, the word has spread by osmosis long before he appears for practice, such that the walkways become packed long before the distinctive white headband bobs into view amid half a dozen security caps and a mass of waiting heads.
Thousands have queued not just overnight, but all day and all night, to ensure a seat on every alternate day—through the entire fortnight. Not done with that, they have thronged the concourses beneath the media building and players’ area just to catch a glimpse of his amble across the bridge between the two after each win.
But today, as that Radio 4 headline announced, it is not just the passionate and multitudinous Federer fans who are sitting up and taking notice. This is, after all, Wimbledon—and the serene Swiss is aiming to win a record eighth men’s singles title here.
But that is not all. These days, Federer, who turns 36 in around three weeks’ time, sets and continues to extend records with almost every appearance. To mark his 19th visit to London’s Club, then, here are 19 of them.
· An eighth Wimbledon men’s title will take Federer clear of Pete Sampras and the current record of seven;
· Federer would extend his lead for most men’s singles Major titles to 19;
· By playing his 19th Wimbledon, he goes into joint first place with Jimmy Connors for consecutive appearances here;
· Federer would become only the second man in the Open era to win Major titles after turning 35, next to Ken Rosewall;
· At 35 years and 342 days, Federer could become the oldest man to win Wimbledon in the Open era;
· Federer is contesting his 102nd match at Wimbledon, tying Jimmy Connors for most matches played here in the Open era;
· He took the lead for Wimbledon match-wins with his first here this year, and could extend that record to 91 today;
· His 11th final here extends his own record of Wimbledon finals: three others have reached seven;
· Federer has become the first man to reach the final of any Major more than 10 times;
· Federer has reached more semis at Wimbledon than any other man, 12;
· He has extended his own record of Major semi-finals to 29;
· He has extended his own record of Major semi-finals overall to 42;
· Federer has reached more quarter-finals here than any other man, 15;
· He also extended his own record of Major quarter-finals to 50;
· Federer hit his 10,000th ace in his first match here this year, only the third man since records began in 1991 to do so;
· Federer is playing in his 70th Major, tying the record of Fabrice Santoro;
· Federer is already the most successful man on grass, with 163 match-wins;
· And he already owns the record for grass-court titles with 16;
· If Federer wins, he will also have qualified for the World Tour Finals, extending his record of appearances to 15.
Federer said ahead of the final;
“I love this tournament. All my dreams came true here as a player. To have another chance to go for number eight now, to be so close now at this stage, is a great feeling.”
If he does, one suspects there will not be enough room through the entire All England Club grounds to accommodate the well-wishers when he steps onto the famous balcony with that gold cup.
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BIOGRAPHY: Anthony Martial