The 2009 Wimbledon final was a moment everyone wanted to witness. Roger Federer and Pete Sampras were tied for the most Grand Slam titles in the Open Era with 14, and Sampras flew to London for the occasion. The American wanted to be in the Centre Court stands to watch the Swiss star break his mark.
“Today with Pete it was a bit special. When he walked in and I saw him for the first time, I did get more nervous,” Federer said. “I said hello to him, too, which is unusual. But I thought, ‘I don't want to be rude.’”
One year earlier, Federer played what is still considered by many the greatest match ever against Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon final. But this time, it wasn’t Nadal standing across the net, it was former World No. 1 Andy Roddick, against whom Federer owned an 18-2 ATP Head2Head series lead.
The first time the pair met in a Grand Slam final was at 2004 Wimbledon, when Federer rallied from a set down to win his second title at The Championships.
"I threw the kitchen sink at him but he went to the bathroom and got his tub,” Roddick said at the time.
In the 2009 final, with the American still pursuing his first Wimbledon trophy, Roddick threw an Olympic-sized swimming pool at Federer. For four hours and 16 minutes, the 2003 US Open champion played arguably the best tennis of his career. Somehow, it still wasn’t enough.
Federer beat Roddick 5-7, 7-6(6), 7-6(5), 3-6, 16-14 behind a career-high 50 aces to earn his 15th Grand Slam crown and deny the American a second major trophy.
“It's frustrating at times because I couldn't break Andy ‘til the very, very end,” Federer said. “The satisfaction is maybe bigger this time around to come through, because I couldn't control the match at all.”
From 2006-08, Federer played Nadal in the Wimbledon final. Those matches were full of baseline rallies, while his battle against Roddick was mostly a serving duel. Federer did not break Roddick’s serve until the final game of the match.
But credit goes to the sixth seed for making it that far. Roddick led the second-set tie-break 6/2, giving himself four consecutive set points — including two on his rocket serve — to take a two-set lead. At 6/5, Roddick hit a forehand approach shot, and Federer's ensuing passing shot seemingly froze in the air. Would it fly long or drop on the baseline? Roddick appeared he would let it go, before reaching for the backhand volley at the last second, missing well wide of the doubles alley.
“I thought the second set was obviously key to what came after. Maybe being down two sets to love, the way Andy was serving, would have always been a very difficult situation to be in,” Federer said. “Even then down two sets to love it's still possible, but it definitely increased my chances of winning.”
First-Serve Points Won
Second-Serve Points Won
Break Points Saved
Roddick could have fallen apart after the massive momentum shift. But instead, he dug into the SW19 grass and gave Federer everything he had in his third Wimbledon final.
“We're human. We're not Cyborgs,” Roddick said. “At that point, like everything else, there's two options: you lay down or you keep going. The second option sounded better to me.”
Roddick entered the match with a 26-4 record in tie-breaks that season, but Federer took two in a row from him to move to within one set of the title. Roddick, who defeated Lleyton Hewitt in the quarter-finals and Andy Murray in the semi-finals, kept fighting.
At 8-8 in the final set, Roddick crushed a backhand winner down the line on the run to earn two break points, but Federer quickly served his way out of a jam.
With Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Boris Becker among the legends looking on, the men traded holds until 14-15. Roddick mis-hit a forehand, and Federer leapt into the air to celebrate his sixth Wimbledon title in seven years.
“It's staggering that I've been able to play so well for so many years now and stay injury-free. Happy what I'm doing,” Federer said. “It's crazy that I've been able to win so many in such a short period of time, I think.”
Federer has since won two more trophies at The Championships, and improved his Grand Slam total to 20. Nadal (19) and Djokovic (17) have also passed Sampras on the Open Era list.
Roddick never got another chance to win a second major trophy. Just more than a year later, the former World No. 1 retired after the 2010 US Openreadfullarticle