He discussed his achievement, of course he did, when questioned about it, but at his post-match press conference he also went out of his way to praise his vanquished opponent.
Federer is a gracious man, and a sporting man, but he never dishes out compliments gratuitously. He appreciates, like few others, the effort it takes to excel at the very top of world sport, and believes it would diminish that effort if he handed out praise willy-nilly to lesser mortals.
So when he does utter warm words about an opponent, he is always worth listening to – all the more so in this case, when those words must act as some kind of consolation to those of us who have longed for some years now to see Andy Murray lift a grand slam title at last.
Yesterday’s four-set defeat by Federer was Murray’s fourth loss in a major final, but the great Swiss player believes that run of failure will end soon. “I think he’s done so, so well, to be quite honest,” Federer said. “Because I see him every day. I see what he goes through on a daily basis on tour.
“At Wimbledon I think he handles it so perfectly, to be quite honest. I think he’s giving himself so many looks at big titles. I really do believe deep down in me he will win Grand Slams, not just one. I do wish him all the best. This is genuine. He works extremely hard. He’s as professional as you can be. Things just didn’t quite turn out for him in the finals that he hoped for. But today I’m sure he got another step closer to a grand slam title for him. I really do believe and hope for him that he’s going to win one soon.”
As well as feeling empathy with a fellow professional, Federer knows what it is like to be written off, as Murray has been in some quarters. With Rafael Nadal having lost in the second round here, and having been in the same half of the draw as the Scot, this was supposedly Murray’s best chance of winning Wimbledon. Having failed to take that chance, he will again be deemed by some to be fated never to win a major.
But Murray is 25 – five years younger than Federer. He was the second youngest of the eight quarter-finalists, being only older than Novak Djokovic, who happened to be born a week later in the spring of 1987. He could have 30 or more chances of taking a grand slam before he finally hangs up his racket.
And Federer could go on for a few years yet, to further confound those who thought his time was gone once first Nadal and then Djokovic reached his level. “I understand everyone wants to be the first to have mentioned it, or said first that, okay, this is the decline,” he answered when asked about being written off.
“I also said that I think this is just a temporary thing. That maybe you’ll be happy that I’m still playing a few years from now. So I see it more as a stepping stone, a period I have to go through as well. That I’m going to win 90 per cent of my matches throughout the year, it’s impossible every single year. So you’re always going to go through ups and downs.
“But I knew how close I was for the last few years, and some people didn’t quite see that maybe, out of different reasons. But I knew, and I think the belief got me to victory today.”
The winner of five straight finals from 2003, and the victor again in 2009, Federer has been in this position so often that he was asked if yesterday’s victory felt any different from the others, or if they all somehow merged into one. “I think any grand slam final, particularly here at Wimbledon, is unusual,” he replied. “You never quite get used to it. Today was unique because of playing Andy. Obviously, being able to play or finish a match under the roof, I don’t think that’s ever been done before here for a final. So that’s been different, as well. And nice, of course. “I know the occasion and how big it was for Andy and myself. I’m happy I got a victory today, but obviously it was very, very special.”
Emphasising the point further, he explained that, far from thinking he was in decline, or just clinging on to his glory days, he was sure he is a better tennis player now than he was, say, five years ago. “God, I’ve practised so much that I . . . you don’t want to be worse five years later, you know. I feel I had a great game today. But then again, maybe there were times I had such incredible confidence that you do pull triggers and you pull off shots that maybe today I don’t, because I maybe do play a bit more the percentages. 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. You know, to enjoy it right now, it’s very different than when I was 20 or 25.
“I’m at a much more stable place in my life. Yeah, I wouldn’t want anything to change. So this is very, very special right now.”