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Tears & Triumph: Federer Makes History Again

It was 2003 Wimbledon when a talented 21-year-old named Roger Federer — who had not advanced past the quarter-finals at the Grand Slams in 14 tries — finally broke through to win his first major title. The Swiss sobbed with joy.

“To lift the trophy is something you don't expect. But when it happens, it's, for me, very tough with the emotions,” Federer told the media 15 years ago. “I'm just happy to be on the board. It's so nice, if I look at all the players who have won here, a lot have been idols to me. Just to be on the board with [Bjorn] Borg and these people, it's just nice, to be a part of history at Wimbledon and in Grand Slams in general.”

Little did Federer know that he was just getting started. And nearly 15 years later, on Sunday evening, the inimitable Swiss raised his sixth Norman Brookes Challenge Cup after beating sixth seed Marin Cilic to win the 2018 Australian Open, extending his Grand Slam championship titles record to 20.

“Winning is just an absolute dream come true. The fairytale continues for us, for me,” Federer told the crowd on Rod Laver Arena on Sunday night. “After the great year I had last year, it’s incredible.”

Once again, Federer choked back tears. Some things never change. Tears and more importantly, triumph, for the greatest player of all time.

The emotions show that Federer — however hard it is to believe sometimes given his accomplishments — is human. He even admitted battling nerves ahead of his record 30th Grand Slam championship final.

“I was so bloody nervous all day. It was eating me up inside,” Federer said in his post-final press conference. “That's why, when it was all over, I was just so relieved.”

Federer did show some nerves in the fourth set, uncharacteristically losing his break advantage as the trophy loomed in the distance. But he showed his champions’ guile by completely changing the momentum in the fifth set against a dangerous opponent in Cilic who had found his range.

The 36-year-old even left the namesake of the court he won on, Rod Laver, scrambling to capture the moment when Federer lifted the trophy.

“I didn't see that through my thick tears, that he was taking a picture of me crying,” Federer said. “When I start thinking about what I was going to say, every subject I touch actually is very meaningful and very emotional… I hoped over time in the speech I would start to relax a little bit, but I couldn't.”

It is fitting that for a player who has provided the tennis world some of its greatest thrills, all Federer wants to do is keep giving it more.

"You guys. You fill the stadiums. You make me nervous. You make me go out and practice,” Federer told the crowd during the trophy ceremony. “Thank you for everything."

Nobody could criticise the Swiss if he never wins a major title again — he has broken countless records and by virtue of Sunday’s victory became the second-oldest Grand Slam championship winner in the Open Era (Ken Rosewall, 1972 Australian Open).

But at 36, Federer is still going strong and having won three of the past five majors, does not appear to be slowing down. The victory against Cilic moves the father of four to within 155 points of Rafael Nadal for the top spot in the ATP Rankings — which Federer has not occupied since 4 November 2012 — and also ties him with Roy Emerson and Novak Djokovic atop the Australian Open titles list at six apiece.

But equalling another record is not what stands out to the 96-time tour-level titlist.

“It's about living the emotions that I went through tonight again at the trophy ceremony, going through a tough rollercoaster match, five-setter against Cilic, who is a great player, and then getting No. 6 here, No. 20 overall. It's just a very special moment,” Federer said. “Defending my title from last year, sort of the fairytale continues. That's what stands out for me, maybe not equalling Emerson or Novak. They had their own unbelievable careers. I admire what they're doing and have done with ‘Emmo’. Yeah, it's definitely a very special moment in my life again.”

It isn’t that long ago that for perhaps the first time since winning that 2003 Wimbledon title, Federer’s status appeared uncertain. A year ago, the Swiss arrived at Melbourne Park after a six-month injury layoff, seeded 17th. His last major victory? 2012 Wimbledon.

If that was the beginning of the end, Federer would have still been considered one of if not the greatest ever, his awards cabinet filled with 17 major trophies. But one year and three Grand Slam championship victories later, and the World No. 2 may be playing his best tennis yet at the tender age of 36.

How long can this Federer Renaissance last?

“No idea. Honest, I don't know. I have no idea,” Federer said. “I can't believe it myself.”

Here is to hoping it continues, because the day Roger Federer hangs up his racquets, it won't be the Swiss in tears — it will be the entire tennis world.


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