Sunday, July 8, 2012
Roger Federer came back to beat Andy Murray 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 to win his 7th Wimbledon title at the All England Club.
"It feels nice," Federer said, clutching the gold trophy only Pete Sampras has held as many times in the modern era. "It's like it never left me."
The victory also increased Federer's record total to 17 major titles and clinched a return to the top of the ATP rankings.
"He doesn't want to stop now. He knows he's going to continue to play well and try to break seven, and he could very well end up with eight or nine Wimbledons," Sampras said in a telephone interview. "I just think he's that much better than the other guys on grass, and he loves the court the way I loved that court. He's a great champion, a classy champion, and I'm really happy for him."
After a record seven consecutive Wimbledon finals from 2003-09, winning the first six, Federer lost in the quarterfinals in 2010 and 2011, then wasted two match points and a two-set lead against Djokovic in the U.S. Open semifinals last year, raising questions about whether he might be slipping.
"A couple tough moments for me the last couple years, I guess," Federer said. "So I really almost didn't try to picture myself with the trophy or try to think too far ahead, really."
Murray was the first British man to reach the final at Wimbledon since Bunny Austin in 1938.
"I'm getting closer," Murray told the crowd afterward. "Everybody always talks about the pressure of playing at Wimbledon, how tough it is," he said. "It's not the people watching; they make it so much easier to play. The support has been incredible, so thank you."
Early on, every point Murray won earned cheers as though the ultimate outcome had been decided. Every miss, even a first-serve fault, drew moans of ''Awwwwwww,'' as though their lad had lost any chance.
Murray got off to a glorious start. Federer appeared the tenser of the two, amazingly enough, and when he sailed a swinging forehand volley long to get broken in the opening game, spectators rose to their feet and waved their Scottish and Union Jack flags.
That said, they do appreciate greatness here, and so Federer's best offerings drew applause, too. There was plenty of clapping and yelling to go around for both men, who produced extremely high-quality play, filled with lengthy exchanges, superb shotmaking and deft volleying - all befitting the setting and the stakes.
Murray's second break helped him take the opening set, and things were even as could be for much of the second, until deuce at 5-5. From there, Federer stepped up, in large part by winning 43 of the 57 points on his serve the rest of the way. He saved all five break points he faced after the first set.
After holding for 6-5 in the second, Federer broke. At 30-all, he won a 17-stroke point with a drop volley that Murray got to but sailed a lob attempt long. And then Federer carved - caressed, really - another drop volley, this one bouncing to the side after it landed for a winner, impossible to reach, closing a 20-stroke exchange.
"Roger did a good job in the second set, turning the momentum around, and really changing things a lot," said his coach, Paul Annacone.
A real key switch happened at 1-all in the third, when a drizzle transformed into heavy showers, causing a 40-minute delay while the retractable cover was moved over the court. The roof was installed before the 2009 tournament; this was its first use for a singles final.
Until then, Federer had won 86 points, Murray 85. Under the roof - with no wind to alter trajectories, allowing the third-seeded Swiss star to make pure, explosive contact with the ball - Federer won 65 points, Murray 52.
"The way the court plays is a bit different," Murray said. "I think he served very well when the roof closed. He served better."
The most monumental game, though, came with Murray serving and trailing 3-2 in the third. It was chock-full: 10 deuces, six break points for Federer, three falls to the turf by Murray, all spread over roughly 20 gloriously intense minutes.
Murray went up 40-love, then began to crack as Federer walloped two backhand returns to 40-30. On the next point, Federer conjured up another beautiful drop shot and Murray tumbled head-over-heels while giving chase; both Federer and the chair umpire went over to check on him. A few points later, Murray did a somersault at the baseline when he slipped going after a lob. And on it went. At the 10th deuce, Federer sent another lob over Murray, who hit the deck yet again, but got up in time to see the ball plop on the baseline. This set up Federer's sixth break point, the last he would need - in the game and the set, certainly, but also in the match and the tournament, it seemed.
He converted it with an inside-out forehand that landed in a corner, and Murray could only push his reply into the net.
There would be no more shifts of control, no reasons for Federer to doubt - or for Murray and his legion of backers to believe.
The final break for Federer made it 3-2 in the fourth, when he flicked a cross-court backhand passing winner that was powerful and perfect. Federer made a rare show of strong emotion, shaking his right fist and bellowing. That, essentially, was that, no matter how many times the fans were going to sing their choruses of ''An-dy! An-dy!'' and ''Mur-ray! Mur-ray!''
Federer only needed to hold serve three more times, and he did, then crumbled to the court when Murray sailed one last forehand wide.
"This is, I guess, how you want to win Wimbledon - by going after your shots, believing you can do it," Federer said, "and that's what I was able to do today."
He most definitely is back to being the best at what he does.
Federer turns 31 on Aug. 8, and is the first thirtysomething man to win Wimbledon since Arthur Ashe in 1975.
No matter. He and Sampras - and, by now, plenty of others - see no reason why Federer can't keep adding to all of his records.
"I'm so happy I'm at the age I am right now, because I had such a great run and I know there's still more possible. To enjoy it right now, it's very different than when I was 20 or 25," said Federer.
"I'm at a much more stable place in my life. I wouldn't want anything to change," he added. "So this is very, very special right now."
Photo Getty Images