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Federer wins Wimbledon

July 07, 2003 01:05 IST

Roger Federer mesmerised man mountain Mark Philippoussis on Sunday to win his maiden Grand Slam crown and become the first Swiss men's singles champion in Wimbledon's 126-year history.

The magical 7-6, 6-2, 7-6 Centre Court performance ripped up the 21-year-old's tag of grand slam underachiever once and for all.

"It's just incredible ... I don't know how this is possible," the fourth seed said, his voice breaking with emotion on the world's most famous tennis court.

"A lot of people have come from Basel, from home, for this. It is so nice to share this moment, thanks to everybody," he added before bursting into tears.

For Philippoussis the defeat was a painful one, but this was a tournament which has breathed new life into a career pockmarked by injury.

After three separate surgeries on his knee, the Australian had been told he may never play at the top level again.

"It's been a long trip back, but this is only the beginning," Philippoussis said. "I will definitely be back."

"ABSOLUTE DREAM"

Federer's victory was so complete it immediately drew comparisons with seven-times champion's Pete Sampras's dominance of the All England Club turf.

It was Federer who ended Sampras's 31-match winning streak here in 2001 with a dramatic five-set win on Centre Court.

That match marked the end of the Sampras era and was the last time Federer reached a Grand Slam quarter-final -- his best performance before this week.

Sunday's final, however, may have marked the beginning of a Federer era at Wimbledon.

Champion in Halle before the Championships began, he is unbeaten on grass this year. His straight-sets defeat of bookmakers' favourite Andy Roddick in the semi-final was a thing of beauty.

"I'm so happy with the way I played. It was the best two matches maybe of my career," he said, wiping tears from his eyes."

Standing 6ft 4ins (1.930 metres) and with his white shirt stretched across his barrel-chest, Philippoussis had cut an imposing figure from the start.

He began in a powerful fashion designed to disquiet the softly-spoken Swiss.

But Federer was uncowed by the barrage of power. With a service action as smooth as any Swiss mechanism, he threw himself forward behind every delivery, angling volleys beyond his opponent's reach.

TENSION MOUNTING

With tension mounting as the first set inched towards a tiebreak, a mobile phone in the stands broke the hushed atmosphere. Its ring tone -- the morse code distress call of SOS -- was apt given Philippoussis's bludgeoning serves.

In the event, though, it was the Australian who needed rescuing when his serve misfired in the 10th point of the tiebreak. Two points later, Federer clinched the opener when the Australian thumped a return wide and long after 43 minutes.

Weaving and swaying on the baseline like a racket-wielding cobra, Federer immediately struck again in the first game of the second set, breaking for a 1-0 lead.

Philippoussis continued to consult the Greek script he had written on plasters on his left hand for inspiration.

But with Olympic president Jacques Rogge watching in the stands, it was Federer who lived out the Olympic motto of 'citius, altius, fortius.'

In just about every aspect the Swiss was 'swifter, higher, stronger', reaching high to claw down a smash past Philippoussis as he stretched into a 4-0 lead. There was no way back in that set for the Australian as Federer clinched it 6-2 in 71 minutes.

HEARTWARMING APPLAUSE

Playing with unerring Swiss timing, Federer's thud of ball on sweetspot echoed around the spellbound arena as he reached for victory.

But what Philippoussis lacked in subtlety, he made up for with ample force and kept his nose ahead in the third set.

The Australian kept pounding down racket-bending serves. Federer matched him, throughout, forcing a second tiebreak.

It was at this stage that Federer took off. He moved into a 2-1 lead with an angled backhand volley which bit into the grass before returning a 130 miles (209.2 km) per hour serve onto the baseline for a winner.

A vicious backhand return followed by an ace and a wild Philippoussis forehand into the net gave Federer a 6-2 lead and four championship points.

Two went begging before Philippoussis netted a backhand return and Federer fell to his knees on the grass.

He held his head in his hands and sat courtside before looking to the skies in wonder.

There was heartwarming applause for Philippoussis before Federer stepped up to collect his trophy.

He held it aloft, bathed in flashlight, as Wimbledon welcomed a new champion and, perhaps, a new era.


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