Pages: Wimbledon’s best

ROGER Federer said: “Winning eight is not something you can ever aim for, in my opinion. If you do, I don’t know, you must have so much talent and parents and the coaches that push you from the age of 3 on, who think of you like a project. I was not that kid. I was just really a normal guy growing up in Basel, hoping to make a career on the tennis tour.”

He made it look so easy. Graceful. Smooth. He glides on grass with Nike skates. He slices the yellow Slazenger ball. He aces 119-mph down-the-T serves. He pumps his fist and takes a quick glance at his box, which include his parents, Robert and Lynette, and his biggest supporter, Mirka.

As much as the 15,000 spectators wanted a five-set, five-hour marathon, they didn’t mind that the final was quick and lopsided as long as the winner was their choice.

Everybody loves Roger. How can you not? Looking at his 3-year-old twin boys and his 7-year-old twin girls perched on the green railing as their daddy cried tears of triumph.. how can you not admire the Rolex-wearing family man?

It’s sad that the 6-foot-6 Marin Cilic was injured. Still, I don’t think it would have mattered. Injured or healthy, Marin could not stop destiny. Having not lost a set in his first six matches at the All-England Club, there was no stopping Roger from holding that golden No. 8.

Pete Sampras used to be my idol. My tennis best friend Macky Michael and I used to idolize Pistol Pete and how he’d kick serve and rush the net and punch that volley. But since Roger arrived, we realized the tennis definition of ordinary-turned-extraordinary. Roger was better than Pete. And what’s best, the only time the two met in was in Centre Court; fittingly, Roger beat Pete in the fifth.

“I’ve always been a big-stage player,” Roger said. “I always felt like I played my best on the biggest courts. I struggled on Court 18, to be honest.”

The bigger the pressure, the higher the expectations, the more the prize money, the higher Roger rises. Speaking of cash prize, Roger (and the Spanish darling Garbine Muguruza) took home $2.8 million.

What a 2017 thus far for Roger. He has won 32 of 34 matches and is 9-0 against those in the Top 10. Best of all, he is two for two in Grand Slam tournaments. If you recall the Australian Open, he was down 1-3 to Rafael Nadal in the fifth set but won the next five games to win Melbourne. This time in London, it was much, much easier.

Of Nadal, it’s a pity that he lost 15-13 in the final set in the fourth round. With Novak Djokovic out and Andy Murray defeated, it should have been another RF-RN ending.

Isn’t it amazing that Roger turns 36 this Aug. 8 while Rafa is 31? For a sport where you alone, without even the presence of an on-court coach, run and think and fight and struggle.. tennis is a tough I’m-all-alone game. And they’ve lasted this long.

The best part of R & R, says the Carpenters: We’ve only just begun. Both are healthy. They’re hungry. Notice how Rafa bites that trophy? That world number one ranking will come down to these two. Given how Murray has succumbed to losses and how Djokovic is lost (and given how many ATP points they have to defend), it’s almost assured that the battle for No. 1 will be fought between the two. I can’t wait for their US Open final.