When it was over on Sunday at Centre Court, after he had won his eighth Wimbledon and gotten to 19 majors -- it means one more than Jack Nicklaus won in golf -- Susan Barker of the BBC asked Roger Federer about his twin sons, watching him on this day from Federer's family box.
"They think it's a nice view," Federer said. "They think it's a nice playground."
Three weeks short of his 36th birthday, older than any Wimbledon champion, man or woman, in 108 years, Federer wins his second major of 2017, and clearly establishes himself once again as the best tennis player in the world. And wins another unofficial championship on this day: as just about the coolest and most popular athlete in this world.
Federer did not have to be at his best on Sunday against Marin Cilic, who had once beaten Federer in a semifinal match in the U.S. Open (2014). Cilic called for the trainer in the second set, broke down in tears when the guy got out there, then later had the trainer work on an injured foot. So it was 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 for Federer at a Wimbledon when he did not lose a single set, something no men's champion had done at Wimbledon since Bjorn Borg. Borg won the thing five times in a row before he effectively quit tennis in his 20s. Federer wins his eighth, and does it as the oldest man to win Wimbledon since Arthur Ashe had the honor in 1975 (Ashe was 31 then), the year before Borg started his run of five Wimbledons in a row, something Federer would match later.
"It's magical," Federer said when it was over.
A year ago, Novak Djokovic was out of the way by the second week, upset by Sam Querrey. Once Rafael Nadal was the most dangerous opponent for Federer at Grand Slam tournaments. But then it was Djokovic, who had beaten Federer twice in Wimbledon finals, a five-setter in 2014, 6-4 in the fifth, a four-setter the next year. But then Federer, who'd had knee surgery earlier in the year, lost to Milos Raonic in the semis. You had to wonder, because of his age, because of the knee, if we would ever see him again in a Wimbledon final, despite the way he had owned the place.
So did Fed.
"I wondered if I would ever be back here," he said.
He took six months off. He came back in time for the Australian Open, with absolutely no expectations. Just happy to be back. But then he was in the finals, with Nadal waiting for him. Then he was down 3-1 to Nadal in the fifth set. He would speak later about knowing how well he was playing, about not losing belief. He won the last five games, on his way to an 18th major that really as so much like Nicklaus winning his 18th major at the Masters in 1986, when he was 46, which is more than somewhat like 35 in tennis, men's or women's.
Now Federer has won Wimbledon again. He has two of the year's majors and Nadal, who won his 10th French Open in May, has the other. Maybe this is the year they finally meet in the U.S. Open, something -- amazingly -- they have never done across all the years of their amazing rivalry.
But for now, we see Federer, at this age in tennis, playing as well as he ever has in his career. I saw him on Centre Court last week. I saw him on that court when he was still in his 20s and I saw him there after he had turned 30. And he was the same. He was Federer. Still the GOAT. If anything, the way he steps up now and steps into his backhand has made that shot more formidable than it has ever been. You first saw that shot, what a weapon it had become, in Melbourne, in the Aussie final, and then we saw it again -- and again, and again -- in two more '17 finals he played against Nadal, first in Indian Wells and then in Key Biscayne.
But everything else, truly, is the same: the ability to hit winners from everywhere on the court, with every possible kind of spin on them. The ability to serve his way out of trouble, the way he did on Friday when facing a couple of break points against Tomas Berdych. Even Sunday, there was a moment against Cilic's serve, what looked like an easy service game for Cilic, he his this screaming, reach forehand for a winner off a first serve. Then he hit a backhand drop shot from the baseline, and Cilic didn't even make a move to play the ball. He just stood there and watched the way they watched at Centre Court, and on television.
This was Federer turning most famous tennis court anywhere, the sport's most famous theater, into his playground one more time.
"I am playing fun tennis," was something else he said when the match was over. "Fun, forward tennis."
He does that in 2017. He doesn't have the No. 1 ranking yet, even as he has established himself as the best men's player. But how can he not be No. 1 by the end of the year? Serena Williams, who has vowed to be back in 2018 after she gives birth to her first child, has 23 major singles titles. Say it again, though, and with no disrespect intended for her remarkable numbers and remarkable achievements: She did not have to go up against players like Nadal, and Djokovic -- they have 27 majors between them -- in their primes.
Federer is the greatest tennis player of all time. We can always wonder how many more majors Rod Laver, who won the Grand Slam twice, would have won if he hadn't been prevented from playing in the majors after turning pro, in the last years before the open era in tennis. I will always wonder, because these are the things you wonder about in sports, what it would have been like to see him in his prime at Wimbledon -- or anywhere -- against Pete Sampras in his.
One tennis coach I know puts it this way:
"Fed's the best. But if I had to pick one of them to play for my life, it would've been Pete."
We will never know about that. What we do know, and what we see, is the way Roger Federer is playing now, tennis I was lucky enough to see one more time at Centre Court last week. Old guy playing young in a young man's game. Now his young children see, too. The view of the playground must have seemed perfect.