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Federer beats Nadal to equal Borg's record
Martyn Herman | July 08, 2007 22:48 IST
Last Updated: July 09, 2007 00:33 IST
Roger Federer [Images] survived a ferocious onslaught from Rafael Nadal [Images] to win his fifth consecutive Wimbledon singles title on Sunday, finally taming the inspired Spaniard 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 2-6, 6-2 in the final.
The normally serene Swiss looked about to crack under the strain when Nadal twice had chances to break serve in the fifth set but rediscovered his magic just in time.
After smashing the ball away on his second match point Federer collapsed emotionally on Centre Court knowing he had equalled the five titles in a row of Bjorn Borg.
The Swede, who won from 1976 to 1980, watched with 14,000 other transfixed spectators as battle raged in the sunshine for three hours 45 minutes, the perfect end to a rain-hit tournament.
"To play a champion like Rafa in the final means even more, especially in front of Borg," Federer said after holding aloft the trophy. "I told him at the net he deserved it as well."
Only Federer, who now has 11 Grand Slam titles at the age of 25, knows how close he came to losing what will go down as the best Wimbledon men's final for many years.
Nadal seemed poised to become the first man since Borg in 1980 to win the French Open and Wimbledon back to back when he stormed the fourth set and had a rattled Federer down 15-40 on two consecutive service games in the decider.
"I was the lucky one today," said Federer, who donned his sparkling white jacket and trousers to collect the prize.
Federer, who walked on court having won 53 consecutive grasscourt matches, began the afternoon with a whistling ace, the cue for a riveting contest.
Claycourt king Nadal came under fire immediately, dropping his opening service game as Federer came out swinging.
From 3-0 down, however, the Spaniard caught fire, rocking Federer with a series of fizzing winners to get back to 3-3, one searing backhand pass to break back the pick of the bunch.
There was drama in the tiebreak when Federer served on his third set point at 6-5. A Nadal backhand was called out but he challenged the decision and Hawkeye revealed it had clipped the line. Federer finally got his nose in front when he carved away a sublime backhand volley at 8-7.
Nadal looked the more menacing player in the second set and had the champion in trouble at 15-40 after successfully challenging a first serve that was not called out in the sixth game. Federer displayed Borg-like cool to get out of trouble.
Federer found himself 15-40 down again at 4-5 and this time there was no escape when the 21-year-old Nadal ripped a backhand past his despairing lunge.
The final simmered in the third set with Nadal occasionally launching himself full length to fend off Federer's pinpoint drives. The atmosphere crackled as the third set moved into a tiebreak and there were even a few signs of needle, Federer shooting Nadal a dark stare when he challenged one call.
Federer stayed calm to win the day's second tiebreak but Nadal came out fighting in the fourth set.
The Swiss seemed to lose his focus completely when, having already been broken once, a Nadal forehand at 0-2, 30-40 was called out but the decision was overturned on the evidence of the Hawkeye screen.
"It's killing me," yelled Federer, who headed towards his first five-setter in 13 Grand Slam finals, despite Nadal needing a lengthy timeout for treatment on a knee injury.
Nadal showed no obvious signs of discomfort when he carved out break points at 1-1 and 2-2 in the fifth set. But he was left to rue the missed opportunities, especially one forehand sitter, when Federer came to his senses to claim yet another title.