At The Top

Men's Final

Federer Defeats Roddick To Capture A Historic 15th Grand Slam Championship

July 06, 2009|By Chuck Culpepper | Chuck Culpepper,Tribune Newspapers

WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND -- As the fifth set expanded to 6-6 and 10-10 and then an inconceivable 14-14 and refused to end, this latest masterpiece of a Wimbledon final seemed to heave with the audacious aim of rivaling its hallowed predecessor.

Whether it succeeded in the end would prove debatable, but nobody at Centre Court on a sunny, blustery Sunday at the All England Club will lament having witnessed a men's singles final so commendable that the fans wound up chanting the name of the man who did not win.

"Roddick! Roddick! Roddick!" they roared, because Roger Federer squeaked by Andy Roddick, 5-7, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 16-14, in the longest Grand Slam final. The win also returns Federer to the No. 1 ranking today.

After the match, Roddick spoke to the crowd and, specifically, to tennis legend Pete Sampras in the front row of the Royal Box: "Sorry, Pete. I tried to hold him off."

An apology necessary, perhaps, because Federer's sixth Wimbledon win gave him 15 Grand Slam titles, moving him ahead of Sampras' 14.

But first Roddick was asked: "Did you just lose to the world's greatest tennis player ever?" "Yes," he replied.

For in addition to all the aesthetic shotmaking and the suitable power and the near-record 50 aces of Sunday, Roddick's crowding of Federer in their third Wimbledon final together unearthed another Federer trait long buried beneath the pile: For a placid sort from the tranquil city of Basel, Switzerland, his vessels sure do carry a considerable ration of streetfighter.

"You know, he was having trouble picking up my serve today for the first time ever," Roddick said. "He just stayed the course. You know, you didn't even get a sense that he was even really frustrated by it. ... He gets a lot of credit for a lot of things, but not how many matches he kind of digs deep and toughs it out."

Thirty-seven straight inabilities to break service until the 30th game left Federer "frustrated at times," he said, but ultimately proudest of "just the fight, you know, because I'm famous for being all casual and relaxed out there, not showing much."

"I have to give it to him," Sampras said to the BBC, calling Federer "the best in my book" and saying, "Fifteen majors, that's a lot of majors."

The retired seven-time Wimbledon champion had landed in London on Sunday morning for a "surreal" 24-hour stay. He had turned up with his wife, Brigitte Wilson, during the first changeover, ambling down the steps to applause and filling out a Royal Box that included past champions Bjorn Borg, Rod Laver and Manolo Santana. He had waved to the crowd and made Federer temporarily nervous, but not too much so to say hello from the court.

Consistent, aggressive, probing and searing of serve as ever, just as in his upset of No. 3 Andy Murray in the semifinals on Friday, Roddick came upon four set points for a two-set lead when he put away a soft forehand volley for a 6-2 lead in the tiebreaker. Just then, though, Federer played a short-hop, cross-court backhand out of the Federer art gallery, plus a service winner and an ace for 6-5.

After four-plus hours and on the 436th point came a completely unfitting but not unexpected finale when the ball caromed from a forehand miss-hit by Roddick and sprayed away. Federer would leap. The crowd would chant in what Roddick called "a nice and appreciated gesture." And somehow, on a day supposedly about somebody else, Roddick would go about grappling with the singular pain of closeness.

Comparing this to his other two Wimbledon final losses, he said, "I think it's worse," a worthy pain maybe only one player foresaw way back on the pre-tournament Saturday of June 20, just after Nadal withdrew because of knee tendinitis and Federer listed possible contenders.

Those 16 days ago, he coursed through some familiar names before getting to one others considered an afterthought. "Roddick, I think, is going to be so difficult to beat again," Federer said, proving he's both outrageously talented and occasionally prescient.

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