Tue, Jul 06, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Rain saved me at Wimbledon: Federer

VICTORY Sunday's success took Roger Federer's winning streak on tennis' fastest surface to 24 matches. It is hard to see who is left that could possibly beat him

REUTERS , LONDON

The rain that has plagued the Wimbledon fortnight came to the rescue of Roger Federer in the men's final on Sunday.

The Swiss champion was being battered senseless by Andy Roddick when, for the second time, light drizzle forced a suspension with the match level at one-set all and the American 4-2 up in the third.

The decision Federer took in the 40-minute delay changed the match. For the first time in the tournament, the world number one opted to switch from his baseline tactics and serve-volley.

He immediately retrieved the break, won the third set tiebreak and clinched his second successive Wimbledon title by taking the fourth set to seal an enthralling 4-6 7-5 7-6 6-4 triumph.

"I thought about what was going on and thought that would be the way to get some free points," Federer said.

"It makes me extremely happy and proud that I did take the right choice at such a moment. I started this tournament playing from the baseline so I thought, `Why change something just because I'm playing Andy?'

"But I had to because he is a better player than all the others I have played and luckily for me I had a rain-break today to realize that," he said.

A compelling encounter on Center Court lurched one way, then the other as the world's two best players pitted their two very different approaches to playing tennis against one another.

The Swiss was at first cowed by the astonishing force of Roddick's hitting.

"He was serving too big," Federer said. "He was hitting off both sides, backhand and forehand, very hard. All I could do was block the ball. I couldn't even slice."

The Swiss rated Sunday's victory as even more satisfying than last year, when he defeated Australian Mark Philippoussis in three sets.

"I feel even more joy this year because I had so much pressure going into this tournament," he said. "To see my name on the [champions'] board twice in a row, I get more joy out of this.

"I had to serve for the match which is not the most fun thing to do in a grand slam final. I was very nervous."

Sunday's success took Federer's winning streak on tennis' fastest surface to 24 matches. He is still 17 short of Bjorn Borg's all-time record but it is hard to see who can possibly beat him.

Federer is also developing a handy habit of winning finals. He won the Australian Open at the start of the year and has now won all three of his grand slam finals.

"It's always been like this, since I played juniors," said the 22-year-old, who won the Wimbledon junior title in 1998.

"When I get to finals, I don't want to lose them. I just can't accept it. It seems like I can get my act together at the right time and stay calm in finals, which is what it's all about. For me, winners stay and losers go. I don't want to be one of those who loses," he said.

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