federer’s fifth

Posted on July 8, 2007

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Today, Roger Federer showed just why he deserves to be called a champion.

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NYT photo

In a superb final in Wimbledon today, he was stretched like never before against the prodigiously outstanding Rafael Nadal, who gave him some real scares and nearly threatened to upset the world number 1. But Federer came back guns blazing in the fifth set (another feat to Nadal’s credit, as no one had ever pushed Federer to a fifth set in his previous Wimbledon finals), drawing deep and equaling Bjorn Borg’s record of winning Wimbledon five times in a row.

Federer’s 7-6 (7), 4-6, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-2 victory over Nadal today makes this his 11th Grand Slam title.

Federer is assured of a spot on the list of all time greats, as he is now tied for third place on the career list with 11 major titles, along with Borg and Rod Laver. Pete Sampras remains the top dog with 14, followed by Roy Emerson’s 12.

Federer’s grass-court winning streak now extends to 53, with his Wimbledon wins at 34.

For too long, Federer had made winning look so easy, especially on grass. His dominance has hardly been challenged in the past few years but today, Nadal almost turned the tables on him, making him work hard for every point and stretching him to the utmost. That is all the more remarkable considering that the young Spaniard had been playing consecutively for the past seven days, no thanks to rain delays and interruptions.

Federer was severely tested, especially in the fourth set when he was down 0-3 and obviously rattled when a dispute on a line call was ruled against him, according to Wimbledon’s “Hawk-eye” replay technology.

The usually unflappable Swiss started arguing with the chair umpire to turn the machine off but was over-ruled on that request. He seemed to continue in the same frustrated funk in the following games while Nadal looked seriously like he could be on his way to pulling off an upset victory, by taking the fourth set.

It must have been a strange feeling for Federer to be in the unfamiliar position of fighting to survive. Does he have the ability to come back, when he has hardly had to call on that in the past few years of routing the competition?

Thankfully, the Swiss, who had been cruising on his talent, managed to dig deep and drew on his mental strength when down, coming back strongly in the fifth set with some brilliant passing shots. To top off his victory, Federer produced a winning overhead smash and won the championship by breaking Nadal’s serve.

“He’s a fantastic player and he’s going to be around so much longer so I’m happy with every one I get before he takes them all!” Federer quipped about Nadal. “It was such a close match. I told him at the net that he deserved it as well. I’m the lucky one today.” Indeed, Nadal proved that he has what it takes to win on other surfaces other than the stranglehold he has on clay.

Can’t wait for the US Open now, as another chapter in the fabulous Federer-Nadal rivalry plays out.

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