Roddick Hopes to Delay Federer's March to History at Wimbledon
Sunday, July 5, 2009
WIMBLEDON, England, July 4 -- With a record 15th major title at stake, Roger Federer will stride onto Centre Court for Sunday's Wimbledon final sporting custom-designed togs befitting his status as tennis royalty: white shirt and shorts trimmed in gold.
And as he awaited completion of the semifinal that would determine his opponent, Federer spoke like a medieval king poised for an assault from a neighboring duchy.
"The better player will come to the finals and challenge me," Federer said.
American Andy Roddick proved to be that man, toppling third-seeded Andy Murray on Friday to advance to his third Wimbledon final and first since 2005.
Roddick has taken three swipes at Federer's crown on the sport's grandest stages and fallen short each time -- twice at Wimbledon (2004 and 2005) and at the 2006 U.S. Open.
But Roddick's upset of Murray, who had all of Britain in his corner, suggests Federer may have a slightly tougher time than anticipated in his quest to win the 15th title that would nudge him past his idol, Pete Sampras.
Instead of planting himself behind the baseline as he typically does, Roddick charged the net against Murray 48 times. And he coaxed the Scot into uncharacteristic errors with a medley of drop shots and slices -- tactics he has rarely employed.
"Now more than ever I can vary it and maybe have some confidence playing out of my element a little bit," said Roddick, who changed coaches in November. "I felt like I was doing the right things and picking the right shots, so that's an encouraging sign."
Still, Roddick says he has no doubt that Federer will eclipse Sampras's mark at some point -- if not Sunday, then soon. His concern at the moment is simply postponing the inevitable.
"Obviously you can't really say enough to signify what Roger's career has been to this point," said Roddick, whose career record against the Swiss stands at 2-18. "I'd love to delay it for another Grand Slam."
Sampras, who won seven Wimbledon championships before retiring in 2002, is expected to be on hand. He has been invited to sit in the royal box for Sunday's final, along with former Wimbledon champions Bjorn Borg (five titles) and Rod Laver (four).
It should be something to behold -- particularly if Federer breaks Sampras's mark, and masters of grass-court tennis from three generations rise in tribute to the player many already consider the game's greatest.