Federer Wins 15th Major In Epic Wimbledon Triumph

July 5, 2009

Andy Roddick played the best match of his life . . . and still lost to Roger Federer at Wimbledon on Sunday, 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 16-14 (Yes, that last set is not a typo.). The 5th set was by far the longest in Grand Slam history, and the overall match had more games than any other as well.

The win gave Federer his 15th Grand Slam major, the most of any tennis player in history. On hand to witness the victory were all-time greats Bjorn Borg, Rod Laver, and Pete Sampras, the only other players whose accomplishments could reasonably be compared with Federer's.

Despite his career high 50 aces, Federer did not play his best match. He was bothered by Roddick's powerful serve throughout, evidenced by the fact he failed to break him the entire match, until the final game. For much of the match, Roddick had Federer on the run, and he appeared to be striking the ball harder than the world #1.

However, Federer's incredible mental strength pulled him through again.

Roddick started strong, won the first set 7-5, and clearly carried over his great play from the Wimbledon semifinal. He then had a golden opportunity to go up 2 sets to none.

In the second set tiebreaker, Roddick led 6-2, with 4 set points. After Federer played 3 great points, Roddick still was serving for the set at 6-5. However, the American shanked a backhand volley to blow the opportunity. Federer won the next two points to close out the set, 7-6.

The 3rd Set went to a tiebreaker and again Federer won the big points. At that moment almost everyone was thinking the same thing: Roddick had blown his chance. He was playing great, but it still wasn't enough. After all, wasn't he 2-18 against Federer coming into the match? Roddick could go home and be proud of his performance this year. Good try, Andy.

But Roddick surprised everyone with his own mental fortitude. He came back to win the 4th set, 6-3, and set the stage for the 95-minute 5th set marathon.

With the benefit of serving first, Federer was able to make Roddick deal with the pressure of having to constantly hold serve to keep the match alive. All told, Roddick held serve 10 times with the match on the line.

Most impressive throughout was Roddick's demeanor which never seemed to get disturbed. When he hit winners he gave a mild fist pump or didn't react at all. When things went bad, he ritually walked to a ball boy, grabbed a towel, wiped his brow, and started again. The level of focus and discipline displayed was a far cry from the petulant and emotional behavior Roddick was prone to just a year before.

Throughout most of the 5th set, Roddick appeared the slightly better player. Although Federer hit an astonishing 22 aces in the set, Roddick consistently attacked with his return and amazingly pressured the Swiss champion with powerful groundstrokes. It was the usually cool Federer who was doing most of the scrambling and running around.

Nonetheless, Federer simply would not give Roddick the match. Although not playing his best, he served big when it counted and challenged the American to raise his game one more level to finish the match. But Roddick could not do it. At 12-12 in the set, Federer began to take control.

After holding his serve easily three games in a row, and forcing Roddick to struggle on his own serve twice, Federer led 15-14. By that time shadows had crept over half of the court and it appeared to seriously affect the way Roddick saw the ball. Perhaps as a result of the change, Roddick misplayed several shots the next game, including a wild miss-hit forehand on match point, and lost serve for the first time to end the match.

Federer has now made 16 of the last 17 Grand Slam Finals. His only Finals losses to date have been to Rafael Nadal.

Despite his current ranking, Andy Roddick, at his best, is the 3rd best player in tennis, behind Federer and Nadal. With his raw power and immense talent, he can overwhelm even the best players with the most powerful serve in tennis. Against Federer, Roddick hit his serve as high as 143mph, and was near 140mph even in the 5th set. He made 70% of his first serves for the match.

In short, the 3rd best player in the world couldn't beat Federer at a Grand Slam on his best day. It makes you wonder whether anyone but Nadal, whose knee injuries kept him out of this year's tournament, can ever challenge Federer in a major tournament.

Further, if Nadal is unable to return to top form and challenge Federer again, it is hard to imagine just how many more majors Federer will win. 5? 10? It may sound silly, but don't be so quick to dismiss the idea. Quite likely only Federer himself can set the limit.

Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for TheDailySportsHerald.com

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