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Federer thrilled by dream season

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Originally published on 14/07/17 00:00

After posting his sixth straight-sets victory at this year’s Championships, this time over Tomas Berdych, only Marin Cilic stands between the Swiss and the trophy that lifts him above Pete Sampras and William Renshaw as the most decorated men’s singles champion in Wimbledon history.

At least, that was the plan a year ago, when he elected to skip the Olympics and the second half of the season following his run to the semi-finals at SW19. Then came his sensational return at the Australian Open, where he claimed his 18th Grand Slam – and first in five years – before a sunshine double at Indian Wells and Miami.

Federer is the first to admit these victories came as a surprise even to him, but the focus remains on Wimbledon. With a 24-2 record coming into the Championships and his first run to final without dropping a set since 2008, he is right on course.

“I'm just totally surprised by Australia, Indian Wells, and Miami,” said Federer, who downed Berdych 7-6(4) 7-6(4) 6-4 in the semi-finals. “I was hoping to be in good shape when the grass court season came around. The goal after Wimbledon last year, this time around, exactly to the day almost when I lost the semis, was to hopefully be back strong for the clay court season and the grass court season leading into Wimbledon.

“So the Australian Open was such an unbelievable surprise to me. Then to back it up in Indian Wells and Miami, that part I couldn't believe – that I was able to sustain a great level. Then, of course, I got really lucky in Miami against Nick [Kyrgios] and [Tomas] Berdych, but played another great final against Rafa.

“The first three, four months were just like a dream, really. This is something I was working towards – Wimbledon, to be in good shape. I'm happy it's paying off here now. But the first bit was unreal.”

Only Cilic now stands between Federer and the title – and the 35-year-old knows the 6’6” Croatian is a tall order. A year ago, Cilic held three match points against the Swiss in the quarter-finals before Federer staged, in his words, an ‘epic’ comeback in what prove tob e his last win of 2016.

But Cilic has beaten Federer when it mattered, beating him en route to the 2014 US Open title.

“I thought he played very well,” Federer said of their semi-final showdown. “Conditions were fast. He was clocking returns and serves at will. He was confident and feeling it and seeing it. It was very impressive.”

Not that Federer is averse to the idea of pressure heading into a Grand Slam final. That’s the way it should be – and, even with 18 titles to his name already, the name it has always been.

“Yes, I do get nervous,” Federer admitted. “I'm happy I do get nervous for the big occasions. Sometimes it slows down your legs, your pulse starts racing, you have a million ideas, you have to take the right one. That can stress you out a tad.

“I always say I'm happy I feel that way because it means I care. It's not like going through the motions like careless. That would be a horrible feeling, to be honest.”

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