• Wimbledon, Day 14

Why Federer's seventh Wimbledon win is his best yet

Jo Carter July 8, 2012

As Roger Federer lifted the golden Wimbledon trophy for a seventh time, he admitted it felt all rather familiar.

Federer, who had fallen at the quarter-finals at the All England Club for the last two years, beat Andy Murray in four sets to end a two-and-a-half year wait for his 17th grand slam title.

"Feels nice," Federer said. "Like it's never left me. I've obviously gone through some struggles as well. So this one comes at the right time in my life, as any grand slam victory does. It's amazing. It equals me with Pete Sampras, who's my hero. It just feels amazing."

When Federer turned 30 last summer, he was forced to brush off reports that he was considering retirement. Less than 12 months later, he not only silenced his critics who claimed he would never win another slam, but returned to the top of the rankings after a two-year absence.

It was only his opponent and his twin girls sitting with their mother in the stands that provided any proof that this was the Federer of 2012 rather than that of 2005, when he saw off Andy Roddick.

While Roddick, who turns 30 later this summer, has begun to slide down the rankings, Federer continues to defy his age. His win over Mikhail Youzhny was an astonishing 33rd consecutive grand slam quarter-final appearance - a remarkable achievement for a player who has never missed a major in his career spanning back to 1999.

While Federer is unlikely to match Steffi Graf's 22 grand slam titles, what makes his 17 all the more impressive is that he has won that many in a golden era of men's tennis. While Graf dominated the women's game in the late 80s and early 90s, Federer has had to contend with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic for the game's top prizes.

Earlier in his career, when he won eight slams in the space of just over two years between Wimbledon 2005 and the 2007 US Open, he was at the peak of his powers.

But what makes Federer's latest victory all the more remarkable is that he has had to step up to keep up with his rivals as Nadal, and then Djokovic took men's tennis to a new level.

The Federer of 2012 may not be as dominant as his younger self, but he is a better player. To be back at No. 1, he has to be - if he had maintained his former level he would have been left behind years ago.

"I hope so," Federer said when asked if he had improved in the last five years. "God, I've practiced so much that I - you don't want to be worse five years later. I feel I have a great game today. I know how hard it is to pull off those great shots, and I know how easy it is to miss, so I'm more aware of these things.

"But I'm so happy I'm at the age I am right now because I had such a great run and I know there's still more possible. I'm at a much more stable place in my life. Yeah, I wouldn't want anything to change."

While he did not have to see off nemesis Nadal en route to the title - the Spaniard has won eight of their ten grand slam encounters, it did not take anything away from his win as he turned on the style to claim a remarkable victory. The way Federer played, nobody, not even Nadal, would have stood a chance.

It was not as historic a victory as it would have been for Murray to end Britain's 76-year wait for a grand slam champion, but it was a performance for the ages from a player widely regarded to be the greatest to have ever graced a tennis court.

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Jo Carter Close
Jo Carter is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk