Wimbledon, England: The morning after Roger Federer won a record-tying seventh Wimbledon championship, he returned to the site of his latest triumph to conduct interviews in various languages and, while there, ran into All England Club Chairman Philip Brook. They exchanged pleasantries Monday and before parting ways, Brook said: “I’ll see you in a few weeks.”
“I’ll check in with you when I get back,” Federer replied with a grin.
In this rather unusual season, the green grass that Federer knows so well is the scene of two significant events: Wimbledon, which ended Sunday, and the London Olympics tennis competition, which begins July 28. Federer can quickly follow Grand Slam success up with a gold medal in singles for Switzerland, one of the few accomplishments missing from his impressive resume.
And make no mistake, Federer is not merely happy to be participating in the 2012 Summer Games.
“I do believe my situation has got that little star next to it. I am now the Wimbledon champion, and I think that gives me even more confidence coming to the Olympics. And maybe in some ways, it takes some pressure off the Olympics, because I already [won] at Wimbledon this year. So that’s a good thing for me, because of course there is a lot of hype around me playing at the Olympics this year.”
For Federer, this is about winning not participating. He won’t stay in the athletes’ village. Been there, done that.
Instead, Federer will rent his usual house near the All England Club, an arrangement that has clearly worked well this past fortnight.
Federer has already been to three Olympics; he met his wife, Mirka, a former tennis player, at the 2000 Games. He has carried the Swiss flag at two opening ceremonies, but said he might allow someone else to have that honor this time. He won a doubles gold with Stanislas Wawrinka in Beijing four years ago.
A singles gold would be the perfect gift for a man who has everything, including a record 17 Grand Slam titles and, as of Monday, 286 weeks at No. 1 in the ATP rankings, equaling Pete Sampras’ career record.
“Obviously, the Olympics is the next goal,” Federer said.
“I was taking it in steps, really: All-out until Wimbledon. And then, after that, take a break, reassess, prepare well, then come back for the Olympics and hopefully play well.”
Olympic organizers Tuesday officially begin to take over the All England Club and make it their own.
There was a flurry of activity around the grounds Monday. A large electronic video scoreboard was getting dismantled. Potted plants were being discarded. A souvenir shop was being emptied of purple-and-green umbrellas and other Wimbledon items to make way for Olympic mementos.
“Apparently, people are moving in and [are] just going to change everything. I mean ... a lot. Also, it’s going to be different, because all of the [staff] are going to be different. Normally we have familiar faces – everybody we know. Those are all gone, so that’s going to be a bit odd and disappointing,” Federer said.
“But I’m sure the IOC are going to make it work ... I’m excited to see how they’re going to make it work, because this already works as good as can be. So I don’t know how they’re going to make it better. But anyway, let them try.”
It was tough to imagine how he could possibly make himself into a better player, but he keeps on honing his craft and adding to his record totals: most Grand Slam titles, most Grand Slam finals, most consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals, most Grand Slam match wins.
On and on it goes.
Until he beat Andy Murray 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 Sunday, Federer had gone two years since his winning a major championship, last lifting a trophy at the 2010 Australian Open.
Did that gap make this one a little more special?
“Absolutely,” Federer said. “I mean, look, this one has a very unique place in my heart [for] many reasons ... but maybe also the wait has [made] this a more fairytale tournament for me.”
Approaching his 31st birthday on August 8, he’s the oldest man to win Wimbledon since Arthur Ashe in 1975. He’s also the father of twin girls who turn 3 later this month and were present on Center Court Sunday.
Nothing quite like being a parent to change the way one thinks.
“I don’t know [about] other 3-year-olds, what they understand, but mine almost understand the difference between a match and a practice. So there you go. Winning and losing? They don’t quite get that yet, either. Which is a good thing, I think,” Federer said with a chuckle.
“I saw them this morning, and they’re playing games. I was like, ‘Do you remember yesterday?’ And one’s like, ‘No. I don’t.’ I was like, ‘OK, OK.’ And then the other one’s like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I remember clapping.’ So honestly, I’m not sure what they do remember ... When I won in 2003, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I was going to win Wimbledon and have my kids seeing me lift the trophy. So this is pretty surreal.”