How The Final Was Won
by Kate Flory|
The match attracted a wealth of stars from the acting and sporting world. Hollywood A-listers Ben Stiller, Woody Allen and Russell Crowe were all in attendance, as were Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, Chelsea footballer Michael Ballack and former British Formula 1 racing driver David Coulthard.
In a high-quality first set from both men, Roddick picked up where he left off against Andy Murray in the semi-finals with a high percentage of first serves (78 per cent overall) and giving the Swiss very little chance in his first five service games – with Federer likewise holding Roddick at bay with accurate serving.
However, Roddick was the first to blink in the serve-dominated set and was nearly made to pay the price for rare loose errors – he committed just three unforced errors throughout the set - as Federer earned the first break point of the match in the 11th game. Federer was denied on that occasion by a strong first serve and was to be frustrated on three further break point chances courtesy of two unreturnable serves from Roddick and a close miss with a forehand down-the-line.
After holding for a 6-5 lead, Roddick immediately went after Federer and his aggression was rewarded with a set point as Federer’s sliced backhand landed just wide. Where Federer failed to capitalise on his opportunities, Roddick did not and clinched a one-set lead as Federer committed just his sixth unforced error of the match as he miscued a forehand down-the-line after 39 minutes.
Strong serving once more dictated play in the second set and prevented either player from earning a single break point chance. For two-time Wimbledon runner-up Roddick though, it was to be a set remembered for four squandered set point opportunities. The American earned a 6-2 lead in the tie-break after Federer had miscued a forehand long and been forced into a forehand error due to a rifling backhand return from Roddick to surrender his serve twice. The way Roddick had served throughout the match, many expected the American to close out the two-set lead. But with history and the No. 1 ranking on the line for Federer, the Swiss hit back to recoup one of the mini-break and stepped up with two big first serves to cut the deficit to 5-6, at which point a tight Roddick misjudged a backhand volley and saw it land wide to bring the score back to 6-6. Federer then maintained his momentum to win the next two points and level the match at one-set all – closing out the set as Roddick hit a backhand long.
Reflecting on the key backhand volley that he missed, Roddick explained: “There was a pretty significant wind behind him at that side. It was gusting pretty good at that time. When he first hit it, I thought I wasn't going to play it. Last minute, it looked like it started dropping. I couldn't get my racquet around on it. I don't know if it would have dropped or not.”
"I thought the second set was obviously key to what came after," assessed Federer. "Maybe being down two-sets-to-love, the way Andy was serving, would have always been a very difficult situation to be in. Even then down two-sets-to-love it's still possible, but it definitely increased my chances of winning."
With the players still largely inseparable, Federer had the only chance of the set to earn a break of serve - but was denied once more by an unreturnable first serve from Roddick as he went on to hold for 3-3. A dip in his first serve percentage to 55 per cent saw Roddick endure some tighter service games, but the American rallied hard to force a second tie-break. In contrast to the second set, it was Federer who raced out to a 5-2 advantage with a double mini-break advantage, courtesy of a backhand sliced into the net by Roddick and a potent forehand winner from himself. While Roddick was able to recover one of the mini-breaks with a forehand winner, the American was not able to pull off the great escape a la Federer in the second set and the Swiss went on to gain a two-sets-to-one lead with a big serve out wide and forehand winner into the open court.
With Federer up two-sets-to-one and gathering pace - and Roddick undoubtedly still haunted by the backhand volley he missed at 6-5 in the second set tie-break - it would have taken a brave man to predict a comeback from the American. But, such was the determination of Roddick to lay his hands on the Wimbledon trophy that had twice before eluded him, the American came back stronger and was rewarded for his resilience as he stretched for a backhand volley to earn two break points in the fourth game. Federer saved the first with an ace, but a rifling backhand pass up-the-line forced the error from the Swiss as Roddick took a 3-1 lead. “At that point, like everything else, there's two options: you lay down or you keep going. The second option sounded better to me,” said Roddick when later asked about his perseverance to fight back after dropping the second set.
Federer continued to look for a way to break the Roddick serve, but to no avail. The Swiss held a 30-0 advantage as Roddick served for the set, but the American did not succumb to the pressure and great defensive play saw him earn a set point as Federer netted a forehand after a lengthy exchange. Roddick then took the match into a decisive fifth set with an unreturnable serve.
In what would prove to be an epic fifth set, it could have been quite different had Federer capitalised on a break point opportunity he held in the first Roddick service game - courtesy of a tremendous backhand cross-court passing shot. As had been the order of the day all afternoon though, Roddick dismissed the danger with an unreturnable serve and would not be troubled on serve again until the final game.
With both players looking increasingly edgy as the set progressed, Roddick took advantage of a more inhibited Federer and his bravery and aggression were rewarded with two break points on the Swiss’s serve at 8-8. The champion that he is though, Federer stepped up with an unreturnable serve to save the first and then a forehand drive volley to dash Roddick’s hopes on the second.
Roddick served 11 times to stay in the match, and the pressure finally took its toll on the American at 14-15. After recovering from a 0-30 deficit to hold two game points, tight errors proved costly for Roddick and a forehand long from the right-hander brought up a first match point for Federer. The Swiss had failed to break Roddick’s serve all match, but when it mattered he crucially applied enough pressure on the American and clinched victory after four hours and 16 minutes as Roddick miss hit a forehand out the court.
“He just makes it real tough,” said Roddick. “He was having trouble picking up my serve today for the first time ever. He just stayed the course. You didn't even get a sense that he was even really frustrated by it. He kind of stayed the course and just toughed it out. He gets a lot of credit for a lot of things, but not a lot of the time is how many matches he kind of digs deep and toughs out. He doesn't get a lot of credit for that because it looks easy to him a lot of the times. But he definitely stuck in there today.”
"It was difficult, because I thought Andy played great," complimented Federer. "I mean, it's frustrating at times because I couldn't break Andy till the very, very end. So satisfaction is maybe bigger this time around to come through, because I couldn't control the match at all."
"I think he did great," added the Swiss. "He's not going to let his head hang down. I think he's going to come back strong and play great in the States. I think it's one of the best matches we played against each other. Of course, conditions were very quick today. But he played well. I really thought I had to play my very, very best to come through."
Facts & Figures
The statistics made pleasant reading for both players. Overall, 181 winners were struck to just 71 unforced errors. Roddick converted 70 per cent of first serves and fired 27 aces, while Federer served 50 aces in a match for the first time in his career – just one short of the Wimbledon record held by Ivo Karlovic. Roddick held 37 straight service games in the match - and saved the first six break points he faced - before Federer broke in his 38th service game and on his seventh break point.
At 77 games, it was the longest men’s Grand Slam final in history. The previous Wimbledon record was 62 games – set last year in the gripping finale between Rafael Nadal and Federer. The final set in Sunday’s final, which lasted 95 minutes, was the longest in any Grand Slam final ever.