“I’m very happy. I don’t know if I’m the happiest person in the world. I don’t think so. I think there’s many happy people out there. Tennis doesn’t do it all for me. There’s more to life than just tennis.”
It was a match which Federer was expected to win and go past Sampras record of 14 Grand Slams but nobody ever thought that he would have to dig as deep as he did today and survive a 4 hours 16 minute epic battle against Roddick to come on top. All the papers and experts had already made their prediction and no one gave even a sniff of a chance to Roddick who after this game has won many hearts for he made the Greatest Champion earn every point and ultimately the record that has been in the news for sometime now.
Federer’s 5-7 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-5) 3-6 16-14 victory in four hours and 18 minutes came 12 months after he had suffered a heartbreaking defeat here in another epic five-set battle with Rafael Nadal. Andy Roddick’s Forehand was perfect until he mis-hit one in his 38th service game and that was enough for Federer to break him for the first time in the match and lay his hands on that wonderful trophy for the 6th time. This final would easily go down as one of the finest in the history of Wimbeldon Championships.
Having lost his previous 2 encounters in the finals at all England club against Federer, Roddick was definitely not going to make it easy for Federer. Roddick has always been known for his booming serves and the percentage of his first serves has never been so high. Federer on the other hand was at his ace-serving best as he sent down ace on ace to hold on to his serve but he was not able to counter Andy’s serves. He failed to convert 3 break points in the first set but the only time that Roddick had a breakpoint he got it right and won the first set 7-5. Almost as much as Roddick will regret losing the final game, he will rue missing a golden chance to go up two sets to love when he had four set points at 6-2 in the second set tie-break. After Federer saved the first two with big serves, Roddick had a straightforward backhand volley which he struck well wide.
It seemed that Roddick was still not able to get over the second set tie breaker which he would have won 9 out of 10 times considering that he is known to be a king of tie breakers. The chair Umpire had to shout 3 times to tell Roddick that he was on the wrong side of the court at the start of the 3rd set. The 2nd set loss was hurting. Roddick had a chance in the 3rd set tie breaker when he was leading 5-2 but he couldn’t hang on to it and lost the set 6-7. But Roddick was not going to give it away. He came back with a bang breaking Federer at 1-2 in the fourth set and forced the match into what proved to be a nail-biting conclusion.
The final set of an unforgettable Centre Court duel lasted 95 minutes before Roddick’s mishit forehand gave Federer his first break and the chance to go down into the record books. At 8-8 Roddick had a chance to break but failed to convert it. At 14 games all everyone was wondering where this match was heading. It was a question of who would blink first in the decider and neither did before the American’s resistance finally came to an end rather tamely, considering everything that had gone on before. “Great players make it happen. Average players don’t” – Kenny Penny after he made 2 bogies on the last 2 holes to lose the Augusta Masters.
“Defeat has a dignity that noisy victory does not have” wrote Jose Luis Borges (Poet).Roddick’s vast contribution to a gripping match was acknowledged by the crowd who chanted his name as he sat disconsolate in his chair and cheered him even more loudly than the winner at the presentation.
The man whom Federer went past to get the record, Pete Sampras was there to see Roger create history and giving him company in the Royal Box were other legends like Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver who had never expected to be seated for such a long time to witness Federer claim the record.
“Andy I want to say you’re going to come back and win one, I’m sure,” Federer said on court as a shattered Roddick contemplated his third defeat to Federer in a Wimbledon final. “Today I was on the lucky side. It feels funny to have the trophy back. It feels great. It was a crazy match, my head’s still spinning. It’s an unbelievable moment in my career.”
“Sorry, Pete,” Roddick said. “I tried to hold him off.” He weathered Federer’s career-high 50 aces and his 107 total winners in the longest match and longest fifth set in major final history, topping marks set in 1927. In his defeat too he was gracious appreciating Federers class. “He kind of stayed the course and just toughed it out. He gets a lot of credit for a lot of things, but not a lot of the time is how many matches he kind of digs deep and toughs out. He doesn’t get a lot of credit for that because it looks easy to him a lot of the times. But he definitely stuck in there today.”
“He’s a legend,” Sampras said. “Now he’s an icon.” Yes he is. With this victory he not only claimed back his No 1 ranking after a year when he lost to Nadal at the Wimbeldon but also has joined the legion of sporting legends , his name sitting comfortably alongside Ali, Woods, Senna, Pele, Bradman, where just one name is enough to confer instant respect.
For once I felt that Federer didn’t deserve this title. Roddick was the better player today. Sometimes when you play your best tennis you don’t get rewarded and on days where your performance is mediocre you get accolades. Life is Cruel. Sad that Roddick had to learn it the hard way. But his time will come for sure when he will finally get hold of that trophy. It could be as early as next year and for now Federer will be rejoicing this moment. I guess this should be the happiest moment in life that he would cherish. Not only has he broken the record but is expected to have a child next month. For all this to happen there could be only one person responsible and it is his wife Mirka who was there to cheer him despite being 8 months pregnant. “She helped me considerably, as a person. I developed faster, grew faster with her. Thanks to her I was very calm in the important moments in my career. She is always supportive. I owe her a lot,” said Federer.