Roger Federer stood on the brink of Wimbledon history on Friday and admitted his 2017 renaissance has caught even him by surprise.
The 35-year-old Swiss legend can win a record eighth Wimbledon title and become the tournament’s oldest champion if he defeats Marin Cilic in Sunday’s final at the All England Club.
But 12 months ago, many in the sport, if not Federer himself, were questioning whether he’d ever recapture the form that had taken him to seven Wimbledons and 17 majors as he sat out the second half of 2016 nursing a knee injury.
Since his return in January, Federer has won a fifth Australian Open, and 18th Grand Slam, followed by back-to-back Masters at Indian Wells and Miami with a ninth Halle grasscourt tournament for good measure.
“I’m just totally surprised by Australia, Indian Wells, and Miami,” said Federer after becoming the second oldest Wimbledon finalist in the Open era when he defeated Tomas Berdych 7-6, 7-6, 6-4 in Friday’s semi-finals.
“The first three, four months were just like a dream really. So this is something I was working towards, you know, Wimbledon, to be in good shape. I’m happy it’s paying off here now. But the first bit was unreal.”
Federer has reached his 11th Wimbledon final without dropping a set.
With a 6-1 career record over Cilic, he will be the overwhelming favourite to break the tie for seven Wimbledon titles he has shared with Pete Sampras ever since his last triumph at the tournament in 2012.
Federer admitted post-match that he will feel privileged to be back on Centre Court again on Sunday.
However, playing all of his seven matches this year in the famed arena has raised eyebrows. Novak Djokovic played three of his five matches on the showpiece arena and two on Court One.
The three-time champion should also have played his last-16 tie against Adrian Mannarino on Court One before that was shifted to Centre Court after an overnight delay.
Fellow headliner Rafael Nadal only featured twice on Centre Court and, like Djokovic, his eventual demise took place on a Court One open to the elements while work goes on to build a retractable roof.
Federer shrugged off any suggestion that he may have benefitted from preferential treatment.
“It is what it is. You take it, you accept it, and you move on with it,” he said.
“I’m always ready that they put me on the second-best court or any other court they want. They decide, not you.
“Of course you always prefer to play on Centre Court over Court 1, or Court 1 over Court 2 and so forth. There’s a lot of players, demands from spectators, TV, sponsors.
“We have no clue what is going on beyond those doors. That’s why it is what it is.”