Roger Federer left the door tantalizingly ajar for local hero Andy Murray in the Wimbledon men’s singles final on Sunday, then slammed it shut to win a record-equaling seventh Wimbledon title and in so doing return to the top of the world rankings.
The Swiss great, contesting his eighth final at the All England Club, flirted with danger in the second set after losing the first, but just when Murray looked like he may end 76 years of plucky British failure, Federer gave a stunning reminder of his genius to win 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 on Centre Court.
When a Murray forehand looped narrowly wide after three hours, 24 minutes of enthralling action, Federer dropped to the turf in joy, just as he did in 2003 when he beat Australia’s Mark Philippoussis to begin a Grand Slam collection that now stands at 17.
For the second time in three Grand Slam finals against Murray, he reduced the Scot to tears, although this match, unlike the others, was a contest to savor.
It was only after Centre Court’s translucent lid was slid across after heavy rain began to fall in the heart of the final that Federer took charge, striding to the win that puts him level with Pete Sampras’ record of seven Wimbledon crowns.
At 30 years and 335 days he also became the oldest men’s champion since Arthur Ashe in 1975 and, to put the icing on the cake, today’s ATP rankings will show him back at No. 1 for the first time in two years and he will equal Sampras’ record of 286 weeks at the summit.
“I played some of my best tennis in the last couple of matches,” said Federer.
“I’ve missed playing in the finals, and it feels like a great moment. I’ve gone through some struggles, so this one comes at the right time.”
Class of his own: A look at Roger Federer’s record haul of 17 Grand Slam titles: