WIMBLEDON, England — It was less a match than a mismatch. Roger Federer, arguably the best male tennis player ever, who was going to win another Wimbledon anyway, in the final against a man with blisters on his foot and tears in his eyes, Marin Cilic.
Federer needed only 1 hour, 41 minutes Sunday to become the first eight-time winner of the Wimbledon men’s singles title, gaining an embarrassingly easy 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 victory. Pete Sampras and 19th century player William Renshaw each won seven.
Three weeks from his 36th birthday, Federer, a citizen of the world with a Swiss passport, became the oldest men’s winner in the 131 years of the All England Lawn Championships. He never lost a set in the tournament.
He called Centre Court his grand stage, and as if to carry the theatrical concept further, he went out on a balcony. Holding his trophy in one hand, Federer waved to hundreds of cheering fans just like a scene from the musical “Evita.”
“This is my favorite tournament and will always be my favorite tournament,’” said Federer, who has 19 victories in the four Grand Slams, four more than Rafael Nadal.
“My heroes walked the grounds here and walked the courts here . . . To mark history at Wimbledon really means a lot to me because of all that.”
Once the rest of the Big Four — former Wimbledon champions Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic — were eliminated before the semifinals, the odds heavily favored Federer.
He had taken time off, skipping the French Open and all clay court tournaments after winning the Australian Open in January. “It was all based on health,” he said.
Then he faced Cilic, who in the second set went to the side of the court, called for a trainer, wrapped a towel about his head and face and began to sob. Not, insisted Cilic, because of the blisters on the toes of his left foot, but because after getting to the last step, he knew he had no chance.
“Every time I had to do a reaction fast,” he said, “fast change of movement, I was unable to do that.”
Cilic, a 28-year-old Croat, won the 2014 U.S. Open.
“It was very tough emotionally because I know how much I went through the last few months in preparation,’’ he said. “It didn’t hurt so much that it was putting me in tears. It was just the feeling that I wasn’t able to give my best.”
Whether it was Federer’s best is moot. It was more than enough. He broke Cilic in the fifth game of the first set, and even though there was a long way to go, with the crowd boisterously supporting Federer, the sense was that it was over.
“For two weeks, I played the best tennis of my life,” Cilic said. Then at the end, he wasn’t nearly as sharp, partly because of the blisters that he said developed in the semifinal against Sam Querrey and partly because of his implacable opponent.
Federer won Wimbledon every year from 2003-07, then again in 2009 and 2012. Some had said he wouldn’t be back to those heights. They were wrong.
Asked what keeps him going, he said: “I don’t mind the practice. I don’t mind the travel. I love playing the big stages.”