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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Epic win gives Federer record 15th Slam

Photo Titled Fired up Fed
Fired up Fed
Roger Federer became tennis's greatest champion, watched by a legion of champions, as he beat Andy Roddick 5-7 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-5) 3-6 16-14 in four hours and 16 minutes to claim his sixth Wimbledon crown. It was also a record 15th Grand Slam title for the Swiss master, overhauling the total of Pete Sampras who was in the Royal Box along with fellow legends Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver.

It was a truly momentous climax to the 2009 Championships as the 27-year-old Swiss became the most successful man in the sport. Sampras, previous holder of that title, had been an unannounced surprise visitor to Wimbledon – where he has not been seen since winning his seventh title back in 2000.

The American arrived three games into the contest, but then sat as enraptured as the rest of the crowd as the two gladiators battled through 77 games, the most seen at any Wimbledon final.

In terms of match time, it was not quite as long as last year’s battle between Federer and Rafael Nadal, but it soon took on similarly epic proportions. And for much of the match, it seemed that Roddick would emulate Nadal's feat as he hammered away at his opponent. Federer wavered a few times, but never toppled and in the end won on merit. He returns to number one in the world, too, by way of yet another win bonus.

That this was going to be a contest between two big blasters was evident from the opening game, when Roddick slammed down two aces and in the next Federer replied with a couple of his own. That Federer had won 18 of their previous 20 matches was not a consideration on this day. For a start, Roddick, white cap pulled low over his eyes, was clearly a fitter and slimmer version of the man who had already lost to Federer in two Wimbledon finals, and he matched Federer stride for stride, shot for shot, ace for ace as they hurtled through the opening set, completing 10 games in just 25 minutes.

Then came the first sign of a falter. It was from Roddick, who fell 0-30 behind on serve, and Federer upped his level in pursuit of a break of serve which would have left him to serve for the set. He could not have tried harder, or played better. Four times he stood at break point, and on each occasion Roddick battled back to fend off the threat and was finally off the hook, courtesy of a pair of Federer forehand errors.

Perhaps it was the inspiration of surviving such a crisis, but Roddick bounced back brilliantly and when Federer offered him a glimpse of success with a faulty cross-court backhand to go break point down, the American struck. A brilliant forehand down the line forced Federer to project a forehand wide and it was Roddick who went a set in front after 39 minutes.

This was precisely the start Roddick needed to prove that he was a changed man from the opponent so frequently dominated by Federer in the past. Impressively aggressive and quick to close in on the net whenever the chance arose, he continued to stretch Federer in the second set with scorching serves of speeds beyond 135mph and a steadiness which was producing 80% of first serves on target.

Federer's discomfort at being so brashly challenged on a court he has come to regard as his own was beginning to show as the second set moved into a tiebreak. As the Centre Court audience roared in disbelief, two errors by the Swiss left Roddick with four points for a two-set lead. Now was the time for Federer to unveil the genius that had stood him such good stead in previous Wimbledon finals - and he responded in brilliant fashion, winning the next six points in a row as, for the first time, Roddick's nerves betrayed him.

Two volleying errors on his own serve let Roddick down before, on Federer's first set point, the American drove a forehand over the baseline and it was level pegging again after one hour 23 minutes.
In that second set Federer had conceded only five points on serve, with Roddick not far behind with seven.

The third set followed the course of the second, with both men holding serve comfortably, except when Roddick escaped from break point down in the sixth game. Though the American's first serve began to shed some of its potency, the two men moved into another tiebreak. And this time it was Federer who not only moved into the driver's seat with a mini-break on the third point but cemented that advantage, growling "C'mon" as he went ahead by six points to three, holding three set points.

Would Roddick stage a similar fightback to Federer's in the previous set? He certainly gave it a go, rescuing two set points on his own serve before Federer struck, following a potent serve with a forehand put-away to move in front by two sets to one with the match two hours 11 minutes old.

Roddick's indomitable attitude had its reward in the fourth set. He conjured two break points in the fourth game and though Federer saved one with his 24th ace, the American trapped the Swiss as he closed in on the net on the next point.

Steadily and impressively, Roddick built on the break, with the only scare coming when, at 5-2., he fell heavily. There were fears of a similar ankle injury to the one which had caused his withdrawal from the pre-Wimbledon event at Queen's Club, but this was not the occasion for something like that. He shook himself down, carried on, and held serve in the next game with that trusty weapon, a service winner. All square again after two hours 43 minutes.

So to the deciding set, with Federer threatening to strike early as he reached break point for the sixth time in the match, only to be frustrated again as the American pumped down his 20th ace at 138mph. With no tiebreak in the fifth set, this one had to be played out. And so it was, amid mounting excitement and with Federer beginning to show the first signs of uncertainty.

This reached a climax as Federer faced two break points at 8-8, only to serve his way out of trouble and as the games ascended into double figures for each man the set became the longest fifth set in Wimbledon's history.

Federer's ace count passed the 50 mark and then, finally, it was Roddick who cracked in the 30th game of the set. Three mishits off the frame indicated he was fatigued and when Federer was offered the first Championship point he grabbed it eagerly, leaping into the air with joy as another Roddick mishit sailed long.

Centre Court - Gentlemen's Singles - Finals
Andy Roddick USA (6)76665614
Roger Federer SUI (2)Winner57877316

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