Reynolds Rap

Federer: Tiebreak No Longer Necessary

7/05/2009 2:00 PM

Not anymore.

With Pete Sampras freshly arrived from California looking on, Roger Federer topped Andy Roddick 16-14 (yes, 16-14!!!!) in the fifth set to capture his sixth Wimbledon crown. Just seven years removed from Sampras’ retirement, Federer broke their tie at 14 majors to stand alone with 15 Grand Slams as NBC, for the third consecutive year, was blessed with an incredible gentlemen’s singles finals.

This “Breakfast at Wimbledon” wasn’t supposed to be this tough — or feature this Andy as a matter of fact. But Roddick crashed the UK’s hope for the exorcism of Fred Perry’s ghost for a 73rd year, with a four-set triumph over Scot Andy Murray in the semifinals.

Roddick, who took a 2-18 record against Federer into the final, including losses in the finals of Wimbledon (2004, 2005) and the U.S. Open (2006), was resilient, resourceful and more than ready for the Fed Express. He gave a regal performance in front of Pistol Pete and fellow tennis royalty, Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg.

In fact, Roddick pushed Federer, who last month completed the career Grand Slam with his straight-set victory over Robin Soldering at Roland Garros, all over the court, holding serve until the final game. Tennis’ A-Rod had a chance to go up two sets, leading 6-2 in the tiebreak. At 6-5, he had a wide open backhand, cross-court volley for a two-set advantage, but the shot sailed well wide.

Roddick also lost the third set in a tiebreak, but broke Fed for the second time in the match early in the fourth set.

The fifth-set serving was particularly sublime (and NBC’s intermittent player-level camera view from behind the returner was brilliant). Federer delivered 21 of his 50 aces alone in the elongated stanza. Roddick was a rock, holding serve 10 consecutive times with the championship on the line. In many ways, it was redolent of Rocoo Mediate giving Tiger Woods what-for in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Like Rocco, Roddick played the match of his life, but faced his sport’s supreme being (sorry, Rafa).

Fed, with history on the line, finally managed to push enough returns back into play (Andy, it seemed, served up the T every time there was a tricky point). Finally, Roddick cracked: he mishit several forehands in the championship game (punctuated by new congratulatory ads from Federer sponsors Nike and NetJets in the pod immediately following the historic moment).

It didn’t have the rain stoppages, the looming darkness and the rivalry with Nadal, whose absence as the defending Big W champion was sorely missed during the fortnight. Still, Federer-Roddick certainly raised the roof (the retractable contraption was only deployed once during its rookie tourney) and was epic in its own right — the longest Wimbledon match ever in terms of games and the coronation at stake.

Regaining his No. 1 ranking with the win at The W, Federer now has at least one other big stage to play on this summer: fatherhood. Roger’s newlywed wife Mirka, who like Roddick’s better half model, Brooklyn Decker, and thousands of Englishmen were kept out in the mid-day sun, is due shortly.

Kudos, to tennis’ once again reigning king.

September