Ranking Roger Federer's 5 Most Memorable Wimbledon Performances
Roger Federer will turn 33 at the beginning of next month, in the midst of a North American tour that could see this year's beaten Wimbledon finalist clinch his 18th Grand Slam title in New York.
Even in what is supposedly the twilight of his illustrious career, Federer has no interest in slowing down. Cruising through to the Wimbledon final in a vein of form that resembled some of his finest ever tennis, he was eventually defeated by the formidable Novak Djokovic in one of the most exciting finals in the sport's history. Hurt though he was to lose such a gruelling encounter, Federer was quick to move on and state his intentions for the future. Speaking to the BBC's Sam Sheringham, he said:
I'm very happy to see that I can produce a performance like I did the last two weeks. That clearly makes me believe that this was just a stepping stone to many more great things in the future.
Boris Becker's assertion today, via TennisEarth.com, that Federer is the greatest player of all time is a considerable mark of respect but one that Federer has never taken for granted. His hunger for victory is still very much in evidence, and when he travels to America in the coming weeks, he will be determined to continue the remarkable tennis that he has been displaying since the start of the season.
While Federer prepares for the future, let's have a look back at his most memorable performances at Wimbledon, a tournament he has set alight for over a decade. These performances highlight not just the dominance of this sporting great on the grass courts of the All England Club, but most importantly, the strength and determination that only true champions possess, even in defeat.
2001 4th Round vs. Sampras
To end the reign of one of the greatest tennis players of all time is no small achievement for any player, but when 19-year-old Roger Federer beat Pete Sampras in the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2001, very few people realised that this was the arrival of a very special talent.
Sampras, in fact, was one of the only people aware of just how far the Swiss youngster could go. Speaking to the BBC after the match in July 2001, Sampras said of Federer:
There are a lot of young guys coming up but Roger is a bit extra-special. He has a great all-round game, like me doesn't get too emotional and is a great athlete.
Federer was quite brilliant in his shocking of the American, displaying an elegance in his all-round game that would become the very essence of his success. Most impressively, however, was Federer's capacity to hold his nerve at the big moments, even at the age of 19 and against such a well-established champion. Of course, each game has its decisive moments but a young Federer told the BBC how much he had to work throughout the match:
It feels unbelievable, of course. I knew it was not going to be easy. I'm very happy about my performance today, from the first to the last point.
Indeed, it is his grace and determination from first to last point that have made his performances at Wimbledon extraordinary throughout his career.
2003 Final vs. Philippoussis
Roger Federer's 2003 Wimbledon campaign was almost entirely flawless, and the final against Mark Philippoussis proved no different, with the Swiss claiming victory 7-6, 6-2, 7-6 to take his first career Grand Slam title.
Having failed to get past the quarter-finals in any previous Grand Slam, a 21-year-old Federer demonstrated for the first time his masterful capacity to hold his nerve and remain composed when under pressure.
The first set was exceptionally tight, as Federer took it on a tie-break after some dominant serving from both players. Once he found his rhythm, the Swiss unloaded his full arsenal of shots with confidence and style, taking the match in straight sets.
"It's an absolute dream for me," Federer told the BBC after the final. "The semi and the final were perhaps the best two games of my career."
This sensational victory proved to be the dawn of a dream career for Federer and established his enduring relationship with Wimbledon and its spectators.
2009 Final vs. Roddick
Winning the Wimbledon final in straight sets was unheard of by the time Roger Federer faced Andy Roddick in 2009, having lost to Nadal in a brutal, four hour and 48 minute stunner the year before.
Federer had beaten Roddick in the 2004 and 2005 Wimbledon finals, and this meeting turned out to be their greatest match ever, as the Swiss dealt the third and final cruel blow.
One of the finest performances Andy Roddick ever produced was not enough to overcome the irrepressible Federer. To gain his record-breaking 15th Grand Slam title, surpassing Pete Sampras, Federer managed to break Roddick's serve only once over the five sets of exhilarating tennis. Incredibly, that solitary break came in the 30th game of the fifth set, with Federer's other two sets won by tie-breaks.
The drama was almost endless, with neither player giving an inch in the final set—Federer showing all of his determination and desire to save two break points at 8-8. Roddick had also led 6-2 in the second set tie-break and could have gone two sets up had he held his nerve.
A marvellous spectacle and a desperate defeat for Roddick, who played superbly. Had he played against any other player in the world, the Wimbledon trophy would have been his. Federer, though, proved yet again why he is arguably the greatest player of all time.
2012 Final vs. Murray
With his trademark grace and elegance, Federer won his seventh Wimbledon and 17th Grand Slam title in an emotional final against Andy Murray in July 2012.
Despite the desperation of his opponent to give the Centre Court crowd a historic British victory, Federer played with an unwavering composure to produce some quite magnificent tennis. The Swiss lost the first set but quickly gained momentum in the second, merging powerful baseline punches with delicacy at the net to take the upper hand.
Once he was on top, there was no stopping him. Although the roof was closed at the height of Federer's resurgence, he maintained concentration during the break and came out more focused and more aggressive under the expensive rain covering. Federer broke Murray's serve in an epic 20-minute game at 3-3 in the third set and from that point on, he was in command.
Federer won the match 3-1 and took his Wimbledon crown once again. Having not won a Grand Slam for two and a half years, he was back to his best. Even the British spectators showed adoration for the Swiss master, in spite of the tearful post-match interview with Murray. Indeed, Federer took the opportunity during the interview to tell Murray that one day he would win Wimbledon, which of course he did the following year.
For all of his sublime shots and graceful words, 2012 was Federer's year and it was his desire—indeed, his necessity—to win that was truly outstanding.
2008 Final vs. Nadal
Widely regarded as the greatest tennis match ever played, Rafael Nadal's dethroning of Roger Federer on Centre Court in July 2008 was truly breathtaking.
Strange though it may be to place a defeat at the top of Federer's most memorable Wimbledon performances, such a decision can only serve as testament to the incredible spectacle that occurred on Centre Court that afternoon.
Finishing in near darkness, this match featured one of the most astounding comebacks in the history of the sport. Nadal took a two-set lead 6-4, 6-4, only to be pegged back by the seemingly insurmountable Federer, who took the third and fourth after two exhausting tie-breaks.
Federer was seeking his sixth consecutive Wimbledon title, but 22-year-old Nadal stole his crown in the final set, winning 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7.
The score alone does not do justice to the match, such was the quality of tennis being played by both men. With frightening pace and accuracy, forehands were being whipped across court and rallies thrashed out for what seemed like minutes at a time.
This final was a battle of two of the most talented sportsmen of all time—the raw power of Nadal against the majestic skill of Federer raging on for nearly five hours of pure entertainment.
Federer was ultimately left disappointed, but he had, even in defeat, the grace to accept with a forward-looking perspective.
"It's a pity I couldn't win but I'll be back next year," he said to the BBC's Piers Newbery. Wimbledon dreads the day that its greatest champion won't be back next year.