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A Historic Triumph

London, England

Roger Federer© Getty ImagesRoger Federer won his sixth Wimbledon crown.

History was made on Sunday 5th July on the hallowed turf of Wimbledon’s Centre Court as arguably the greatest player ever to grace the game, Roger Federer, won an all-time record 15th Grand Slam singles title.

The Swiss superstar, who was contesting a record seventh successive Wimbledon men’s singles final, served a personal-best 50 aces as he prevailed in a marathon five-set final against long-time rival Andy Roddick 5-7, 7-6(6), 7-6(5), 3-6, 16-14 after four hours and 16 minutes to claim his sixth crown at The Championships. Roddick's serve was impenetrable until the final game of the match, when Federer clinched victory on his first match point and seventh break point. Until then, Roddick had held 37 straight service games.

In a fitting touch, seven-time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras was there to see his record broken – the American finished his illustrious career with 14 major singles titles. Sampras was joined on the front row of the Royal Box by tennis greats Manolo Santana, Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg.

"I'm happy I broke the record here in some ways because this is always the tournament that's meant the most to me because of my heroes and idols being so successful here," said Federer. "It definitely feels like it's come full circle for me starting it here (with his first Grand Slam victory in 2003) and ending it here. Of course, my career is far from over. 

"But it's also nice to think especially so many legends were sitting there today. Especially Pete. I know how much the record meant to him and he knows how much the record means to me. In a way, I still feel like we share it just because he was such a wonderful champion. He still has one up against me here at Wimbledon. It's nice that he shows appreciation for what I'm doing, and it's just great seeing so many legends coming out and enjoying or our tennis today."

While it took Sampras 12 years to amass his 14 Grand Slam titles (1990 – 2002 US Open), Federer has remarkably taken half that time to reach 15. Since winning his first Wimbledon title in 2003 (d. Philippoussis), the right-hander has gone on to win five more Wimbledon trophies, five US Open trophies, three Australian Open trophies and enjoyed one victory at Roland Garros.

"It's staggering that I've been able to play so well for so many years now and stay injury free," commented Federer. "Of course there is a certain routine that's started to happen the last few years since I sort of became No. 1 in the world. I knew what it took to win the big ones. That's obviously a lot of experience that comes with it being there and giving myself chances. It's crazy that I've been able to win so many in such a short period of time, I think."

The victory also holds significance in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings as Federer will now reclaim the No. 1 ranking after surrendering the top spot to Rafael Nadal for 46 weeks on 18 August, 2008. The Swiss had previously sat atop the Rankings for a record 237 weeks, since 2nd February, 2004 – the day after he claimed his first Australian Open crown (d. Safin).

"I'm happy at least that I became No. 1 in the world by winning the tournament, not just by him (Nadal) not playing at all," said Federer. "It's supposed to be that you win big matches, big tournaments. That's how you get back to it."

Federer continues to etch his name in the history books. Just four weeks ago the 27 year old became just the sixth man in history to achieve the career Grand Slam as he finally laid his hands on the Coupe des Mousquetaires, defeating first-time finalist Robin Soderling in his fourth straight Roland Garros final. The victory at Roland Garros last month means he is only the fourth man in the Open Era to win the clay-court and grass-court Grand Slams in the same year – following in the footsteps of Rafael Nadal, who achieved that feat last year.

Federer, who has reached the final in 16 of the past 17 majors, was contesting an all-time record 20th Grand Slam singles final, having previously shared the record with Ivan Lendl. Contesting his sixth consecutive Grand Slam final, he is the only man in history to have reached a succession of at least five Grand Slam finals twice - having also advanced to 10 straight major finals between 2005 Wimbledon and the 2007 US Open.

The Swiss is only the third player to win six or more Wimbledon titles, behind William Renshaw and Sampras – who both won seven titles. He also now has broken another Open Era record of Sampras’ by winning his 11th grass-court title – in addition to Wimbledon his other five titles came at Halle in 2003-06 and ’08.

Federer suffered a turbulent start to the year, missing out on a fourth Australian Open title in a five-set epic with Nadal. Consecutive semi-final losses followed at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami and his clay-court season did not begin as planned due to a third-round loss to countryman Stanislas Wawrinka in the third round at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Monte-Carlo.

However, the newly married Swiss turned around his fortunes at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Madrid with victory over Nadal in the final before taking advantage of the Spaniard’s shock loss in the Roland Garros fourth round to claim his first French Open title. He is now on a winning streak of 19 matches, dating back to a semi-final loss to Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Rome. It is the first time he has won three successive tour-level titles since 2006 – when he won seven tournaments in a row.

Now with 60 tour-level titles, Federer is level with Andre Agassi on the list of all-time Open Era title leaders. American Jimmy Connors tops the pile with 107 titles.

While Federer was bidding to make tennis history on Sunday, Roddick was on a personal quest to win his first Wimbledon crown after twice before being denied by Federer in the 2004 and ’05 finals.

The American produced stunning serving displays in both his final two matches and came close to winning his second Grand Slam title to join the US Open trophy he claimed in 2003 with victory over Juan Carlos Ferrero.

Asked if it was the best match he had ever played, Roddick said: "I played pretty good two days ago (in the semi-final against Murray). I struggle with this, comparisons of one match to another. I don't know. I was happy with the way I played. I thought I played real well."

It has been a long six years for Roddick since he clinched his maiden major title and he openly admitted he doubted if he could ever challenge for the top titles again. But what a difference a year can make. The 26 year old confessed he came close to quitting tennis a year ago after a devastating second-round loss to Janko Tipsarevic at The Championships, but at the encouragement of his wife – Brooklyn Decker – he dusted himself down and marched onwards.

The appointment of coach Larry Stefanki in December saw Roddick lose a stone in weight and has made him be a dominant feature on the 2009 ATP World Tour - winning his 27th tour-level title at Memphis (d. Stepanek) and compiling a 39-9 match record.

"I took some satisfaction in December and in November when we (Roddick and Stefanki) started to move forward," said Roddick. "It was to give yourself an opportunity to win tournaments like this. I feel like I did give myself that opportunity today. It didn't work out, but I definitely gave myself a look."

At Wimbledon, the Texas resident recovered from a twisted right ankle, suffered in the semi-finals at The Queen’s Club, to reach his first Grand Slam final since the 2006 US Open – where he also lost out to Federer. The right-hander defeated 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt in a dogged five-set battle in the quarter-finals and was proclaimed to be “the man who shot bambi” after dismissing home-hope Andy Murray in four sets in the semi-finals.

Former World No. 1 Roddick, the first non-European man to reach a Grand Slam final since Chilean Fernando Gonzalez at the 2007 Australian Open, was looking to end a six-year major title drought for American tennis. 23 majors have passed since Roddick’s 2003 US Open triumph, the longest gap between Grand Slam successes for US men in the Open Era. Andre Agassi, who lost to Federer in the 2005 US Open, is the only other American man to reach a Grand Slam final since Roddick in 2003.

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