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Roger Federer’s place in history as one of the tennis greats was assured on Sunday as he beat Andy Roddick to secure a third successive Wimbledon men’s singles title, and his fifth major at the age of only 23.
Federer was under pressure to win after losing at the Australian and French Opens at the semi-final stage. Roddick played intelligent tennis, but was never in the match, as Federer won 6-2, 7-6, 6-4.
This was the tenth match between the two men and their third meeting in three years at Wimbledon, and Federer has dominated the series. As Roddick pointed out after last year’s loss in the final, he has to start winning a few for it to be a proper rivalry. This time, Roddick suggested to beat Federer “I might have to punch him.” Certainly, Roddick’s game didn’t match that of the champion’s.
The problem is that Federer is able to read Roddick’s serve and is not scared of trading forehands - taking away Roddick’s two main weapons. So Roddick looked to change his game, coming to the net to pressure Federer and trying to mix up his serve rather than just blast away. The tactics might have worked if Federer had an off day, but it didn’t happen. As Roddick said afterwards, “I ran out of options.”
The match hinged on the second set tiebreak. Roddick had been a break up in the set, but was pegged back. Federer started to hit winners at will, passing Roddick at the net, and using his backhand down the line to get Roddick on the run.
The third set, which was delayed for a rain break, had an air of inevitability. Once broken, Roddick never gave up, but had to settle for second best for the second year running. History will judge Roddick harshly if he fails to add to his major tally of one US Open in 2003, but it is his bad luck to run into Federer in this form.
Federer joins Pete Sampras, Bjorn Borg and Boris Becker as three-time champions in the mordern era, and has the time, talent and temperament to surpass them all.
On Saturday, Roddick had unfinished business in his semi final with Thomas Johansson, who won the Australian Open in 2002. The Swede pushed Roddick hard, with the match as tight as the 6-7, 6-2, 7-6, 7-6 scoreline suggested.
In the women’s event, Venus Williams won her first major title since the US Open of 2001. Since then she had been runner up five times, all to her sister Serena. In recent events she had looked unlikely to trouble the top seeds, and seemed increasingly uninterested in tennis, with pursuits in fashion and television taking much of her time.
The final with Lindsay Davenport was a repeat of the 2000 final, which Williams also won. But that 2000 match had none of the drama of this contest. The longest women’s final in history finished 4-6, 7-6, 9-7.
If the tournament was something of a redemption for Williams, her opponent final opponent was runner up at a major for the second time this year, and increasingly looks beset by nerves in the finals.
She served for the set in the second but was broken, and held a match point against Williams at 5-4 in the third set, but was not given a chance to close it out as Williams hit a backhand winner. From there, the momentum was with Williams who jumped repeatedly for joy as she sealed her victory.