Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Racquet Roger ties Pistol Pete

Matches Sampras' Wimbledon mark of seven crowns

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WIMBLEDON, England -- A Grand Slam title drought did indeed end in Sunday's historic and riveting Wimbledon final, only it was Roger Federer's lengthy-for-him gap between trophies that came to a close, rather than Britain's 76-year wait for a homegrown men's champion.

Making sure everyone knows he is still as capable as ever of brilliance on a tennis court -- particularly one made of grass, and with a roof overhead -- Federer came back to beat Andy Murray 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 indoors on Centre Court for a record-tying seventh championship 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 after being stuck on No. 16 for 2 1/2 years, and clinched a return to the top of the ATP rankings, overtaking Novak Djokovic, after an absence of a little more than two years. Federer's 286th week at No. 1 ties Sampras for the most in history.

"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."

After losing in the semifinals each of the previous three years, Murray was the first British man to reach the final at Wimbledon since Bunny Austin in 1938, and was trying to become the hosts' first male title winner since Fred Perry in 1936.

Alas, Murray dropped to 0-4 in Grand Slam finals, three against Federer. Only one other man lost the first four major title matches of his career: Ivan Lendl, who is coaching Murray now and sat in his guest box with chin planted on left palm, as expressionless as he was during his playing career. While Lendl never did win Wimbledon, perhaps Murray can take solace from knowing his coach did end up with eight Grand Slam titles.

"I'm getting closer," Murray told the crowd afterward, his voice cracking and tears flowing.

"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."

The Scotland native was urged on by 15,000 or so of his closest friends in person, along with thousands more watching on a large video screen a short walk away across the ground -- not to mention the millions watching the broadcast on the BBC.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 9, 2012 C4

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