Federer takes third straight championship at Wimbledon

Swiss dominates Roddick in straight sets

champ: `I hope it's not going to stop with 3'


July 04, 2005|By Todd Richissin | Todd Richissin,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

WIMBLEDON, England - For three years now, Roger Federer's magical tennis skills have been heralded with so much superlative-drenched praise that such gushing can usually be fairly judged as over-the-top hype.

But it's not.

In a masterful performance in the men's championship against unfortunate victim Andy Roddick, Federer yesterday solidified his standing among history's tennis greats, becoming the third man since 1936 to win three straight Wimbledon crowns.

After serving a bullet down the middle to win the championship, 6-2, 7-6 (2), 6-4, he dropped to his knees and rolled on his back, then covered his face with his hands and got up to congratulate Roddick at Centre Court.

The Wimbledon fans are always thirsty for as much tennis as they can get and so change their allegiance to whichever player is behind, trying to provide enough inspiration to keep the match going.

But the purity of Federer's play, his mastery of the grass court, has made him a genuine crowd favorite here, so much so that he was instantly forgiven - it was fine with the fans for him to win, but not in three sets - and the stands erupted in cheers when he left Roddick, walked to center court and raised his arms in victory as his eyes filled with tears.

"I hope it's not going to stop with three," he said at the trophy ceremony on Centre Court. "Maybe one day I'll win a fourth one, but this one is already very, very great."

If there are any doubts about just how dominant Federer has been, a look at some statistics should dissolve them.

Just a few: Yesterday's championship gave him - at age 23 - the 30th title of his career, including five Grand Slams. He has not lost a final since 2003, stringing together 21 consecutive victories, far eclipsing the former Open Era record of 12, held by Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. He has won 36 consecutive matches on grass, five behind Borg's record.

But the statistic that mattered yesterday: He beat Roddick at Wimbledon for the third year in a row, including the past two finals.

For Roddick, the frustration of losing a Wimbledon final to Federer again was tempered only by his respect for the top-seeded Federer's game.

"I'm not going to sit around and sulk and cry," Roddick said. "I did everything I could. I tried playing different ways. I tried, you know, going to his forehand and coming in. He passed me. I tried to go to his backhand and coming in. He passed me.

"I tried staying back and he figured a way to pass me - even though I was at the baseline."

Federer blasted 16 passing shots for winners as Roddick stood, usually like a statue, at the net.

Roddick did play well after a rough start to the match, returning some improbable strokes from the Swiss. Unfortunately for the American, who was seeded No. 2 in the tournament, he was returning to Federer.

The champion finished with 49 winners and only 12 unforced errors, an astounding ratio made even more so considering the ferocity of Roddick's forehand.

But Federer provided more than just solid play. Before the match, McEnroe described him as the most beautiful player he had ever seen, and the championship match did nothing to cast doubt on that.

At times Federer is like a poet with a mean streak, playing with a combination of elegance and power. He flutters slices, manages to return spiked lobs and, as he did several times yesterday can hit winners using uncommon angles.

His net play, too, can be astounding. During one exchange as both stood close to the net, Roddick blasted three consecutive shots at Federer, who wielded his racket in front of each of them, sending the third shot past Roddick for a winner.

And he can serve.

On championship point, Federer hit a 129-mph service winner, his fastest of the match, which Roddick barely stubbed with his racket.

At times during the match, Federer made shots that left Roddick shaking his head. When Roddick was interviewed on the court after his loss, he jokingly said he'd rather not talk just yet.

"I'm more in the mood for a beer right now," he said, prompting cheers from the Centre Court crowd.

"I couldn't have asked more of myself. I put in all the work, and I wanted to win this so badly. This guy is the best for a reason and he really deserves a lot of credit. ... Maybe I'll just punch him or something."

Federer first broke Roddick in the match's sixth game, and then again in the eighth, this time with a backhand return Roddick could only watch.

Federer won 20 of his first 21 service points, but Roddick got his sole break in the second set to fall behind 3-1, but he calmly broke back in the sixth game and pushed it into a tiebreaker.

Roddick quickly fell behind, and Federer went ahead 5-2 with a precision liner to the corner.

He broke Roddick in the third set at 3-3 and never faced break point again.

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