As Roger Federer took to the court for the Wimbledon final in his patented “RF” all-cream colored ensemble featuring pants and a multi-pocketed slightly-strange, slightly-military-style jacket with a high collar, you couldn’t help but recall the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper”-era get-ups, and as the match went on, the song “With a Little Help From My Friends.”
With a little help from Andy Roddick on a set point that turned the entire match, Federer raised the Wimbledon trophy and inherited the title of GOAT (Greatest of All Time) with a 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 16-14 victory over the American.
It was the third time Federer has beaten Roddick in a Wimbledon final, and the sixth career Wimbledon title for the Swiss. The win propelled Federer to the all-time head of the class in terms of Grand Slam singles titles won, eclipsing Pete Sampras’ 14 titles with the magic number 15.
Roddick won the first set and was well in control before disaster struck.
Leading 6-5 in the second-set tiebreak, Roddick had a relatively-easy high volley put-away on an attempted Federer pass that he for an instant took his eye off of — an instant that changed the match from a potential 2-0 set lead to one-set all.
“That was a definite choke right there,” said NBC commentator John McEnroe. Roddick proceeded to chunk a transition net shot on the net point, then make a backhand unforced error as Federer gave out a “Yeah!” shout upon clinching the set.
Roddick hung on gamely in the third set until the tiebreak, where Federer imposed his will in addition to some “C’mon!”s, showing the fire that at this point Roddick was lacking after the specter of the second set giveaway. Down 1-4 and 2-5 in the tiebreak, Roddick made a brief resurgence until Federer opened the toy chest, luring the American to the net and passing him. Roddick brought it back to 5-6, but then Federer closed it out on his next service point for a two-sets-to-one lead.
The American broke for a 3-1 lead in the fourth, then survived a difficult hold for 4-1 before closing out the set to force a fifth.
In the marathon fifth set games went according to serve until 14-15 when Roddick finally succumbed on his service game.
Roddick drops to 1-4 in Slam finals, but retains the small consolation that he is playing perhaps the best tennis of his career. He is fitter than ever and hitting through his backhand with the help of coach Larry Stefanki.
“I know how tough it is,” Roddick said prior to the final at the prospect of beating the Swiss. “But, you know, I’m excited about this one. I didn’t know if I was going to get to play a final of Wimbledon again.”
Among the former champions in the star-studded crowd were Sampras (seven Wimbledon championships), Bjorn Borg (five) and Rod Laver (four).
The 27-year-old Federer, who has reached the final of 19 of the last 20 Slams, completed the career Grand Slam in June by winning his first French Open, a goal that eluded Sampras during his reign.
The Wimbledon crown also puts Federer back at the No. 1 ranking, ahead of injured rival Rafael Nadal who was forced to skip a trip to England.
“It’s nice to hang on to — going through life being the best,” Federer said. “You’re not just really a champion; you’re the best at something. That’s a nice feeling to have.”
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