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GREIGHTEST OF ALL TIME; SWISS ON A ROLL Phenomenal Federer shows why he'll go down as the best by romping to record title triumph and becomes the oldest ever champ ... but for poor crocked Croat Cilic final is a nightmare.

Byline: KEITH JACKSON

IT only lasted just one hour and 41 minutes.

But for the unfortunate Marin Cilic it must have felt like an eternity out there, with nowhere for him to hide or take cover.

This 6ft 6in Croat tower block of a man was systematically demolished and brought crashing to the ground by a succession of Roger Federer's finest and most ferocious backhands as the seventime champion became an eight-time history-maker on his very own field of dreams as well as becoming the oldest man to claim this golden, holy grail.

But what Cilic experienced here was a nightmarish match which is likely to hunt him down in the dead of night for weeks and maybe months to come.

It was an excruciating way for his Wimbledon to reach an end.

Where Federer flourished out there on his favourite grass stage Cilic was frozen solid. Hampered further by a painful blister on the sole of his left foot Cilic was simply unable to make a match of this final or cause his Swiss opponent even the slightest of concern. Making history is not supposed to be so routine but then Federer is no ordinary human being.

In tennis terms at least he is a living, breathing phenomenon.

Federer has been winning titles here over the last 14 years but never has the last hurdle been so easy to get over. If he had been forced to pull his trademark headband down over his eyes perhaps Cilic might have stood a chance.

Instead it was the 28-year-old seventh seed who was groping around in the dark, attempting to deal not only with the man on the other side of the net but also with his own sense of frustration and embarrassment.

He did well to leave with what was left of his dignity intact. But this had been a humbling, traumatic and merciless beating at the hands of the greatest player to swing a racquet.

Throughout these two weeks Cilic had spent four and a half hours more than Federer on court which meant, even at the ripe old age of 35, the veteran had plenty left in the tank for this final showdown.

It had been a clammy, muggy morning here too, with SW19 wrapped up under thick blanket of grey.

But the moment this pair stepped out to begin knocking up also brought the first hints of a breakthrough. Sunshine or not, it was going to be hot, sticky work out there on a parched, yellowing Centre Court. That much seemed obvious.

And very quickly Cilic knew for sure.

It took Federer a while to find his range.

He even threw in a couple of early double faults and allowed his opponent a look at a break point but when Cilic failed to convert, dumping a backhand carelessly into the net, it came as an alarm call to the great man.

In the next game he went on the attack, leaving Cilic on the seat of his pants at the net during one scrambling exchange of volleys before flicking a winner into the gaping court, and it felt then as if the real Federer had finally arrived at this final.

Moments later he had opened up three break points of his own and with an imperious swipe of his backhand he pinned the big man into a corner and forced him to find the net from behind his baseline.

This was a breakthrough which Federer would simply not let go.

His ground strokes were firing now too. In the eighth game of the set he brought the place to its feet with two successive rasping backhands. That Cilic managed to get his racquet on the first one was a minor miracle. But when the next one went flashing beyond his reach he was in serious trouble again.

Eventually, under all kinds of pressure and facing another break point he doublefaulted to hand Federer the set 6-4. Cilic walked towards the net looking thoroughly disgusted with his own work and clubbed at his chair with his racquet before burying his head under a towel.

This final was in danger of getting away from him already and he called for the trainer to perform some running repairs to a blister on the sole of his left foot at the side of the court.

But when he was broken again in the second game of the second set - spraying another sloppy backhand in between the tram-lines - Federer had established complete control of the contest.

There was apparently nothing the heavy-handed Cilic could do to slow his progress towards this latest chapter of tennis history.

Even when the Croat was crunching serves down the court at 132mph Federer was finding ways to get it back in play.

There were moments when Cilic looked like he was suffocating out there and when Federer unlocked another break point with a backhand of such beauty it brought gasps form the crowd, the 28-year-old's last resolve seemed to have been crushed.

He saved that one but was broken again moments later as Federer took the set 6-1. Cilic called the trainer back on to court to have his left foot strapped up but no amount of sticking plasters were going to save him now.

This was agony all round for Cilic who limped back out after more lengthy treatment and at least managed to hold his serve in the first game of the third set to a rousing cheer from the stands.

Trouble is this sounded more like a sympathy vote than a belief Cilic was capable of digging his way out of trouble.

Eventually the break came in the seventh game of the set when Cilic slapped a horrible forehand into the top of the net to put Federer 4-3 up and within two games of yet another major title, the 19th of his storybook career, That he won 6-4 with one last jawdropper of an ace - his eighth of this final - was a fitting end to perhaps a perfect performance. Nobody does it better. It's very possible nobody ever will.

SW19 WINNERS 8 Roger Federer (Swi) 7 William Renshaw (Gbr) Pete Sampras (USA) 5 Bjorn Borg (Swe) Laurence Doherty (Gbr) 4 Reggie Doherty (Gbr), Rod Laver (Aus), Anthony Wilding (Nzl) 3 Wilfred Baddeley (Gbr), Boris Becker (Ger), Novak Djokovic (Ser), Arthur Gore (Gbr), John McEnroe (USA), John Newcombe (Aus), Fred Perry (Gbr), Bill Tilden (USA) SLAM TITLES 19 Roger Federer (Swi) 15 Rafael Nadal (Spa) 14 Pete Sampras (USA) 12 Novak Djokovic (Ser) Roy Emerson (Aus) 11 Bjorn Borg (Swe), Rod Laver (Aus) 10 Bill Tilden (USA) 8 Ken Rosewall (Aus) Fred Perry (Gbr) Jimmy Connors (USA) Andre Agassi (USA) Ivan Lendl (Cze)

CAPTION(S):

BACK IN THE OLD ROUTINEFEDERER is delighted to win another Wimbledon crown aged 35

SORE POINTS Cilic battles through the pain but his bid to win title ends in tears
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 17, 2017
Words:1152
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