June 26-July 9, 2006; 128 Draw (32 seeded); Surface – Grass
Farewell Wimbledon for the 1992 champion Andre Agassi, Jonas Bjorkman becomes the oldest Wimbledon semifinalist since 1987, Roger Federer confirms that Centre Court is his home turf triumphing for the fourth time in a row, dropping just one set in the process, to first-time Wimbledon finalist Rafael Nadal in the last match of the tournament.
First round: (NDTV Sports)
Roger Federer won his record 42nd straight grass-court match on Tuesday, beating Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 to open his bid for a fourth consecutive Wimbledon championship. The top-ranked Federer broke the record he shared with Bjorn Borg, the five-time Wimbledon champion who won 41 straight matches on grass from 1976-1981 (the Swede won them all at Wimbledon). “It’s nice to get any streak,” Federer said. “I’m still going, so even better if I can maybe postpone it and make it even last longer. I’m surprised myself I’ve kept it that long. To come through today was my only wish, not to break the streak, but to have it come together is nice.” Federer led Gasquet 6-3, 1:2 on Monday when the match was suspended by rain. The pair returned to Centre Court under cloudy skies, and Federer needed only 37 minutes to finish off the 20-year-old Frenchman. Also winning on Centre Court was Andre Agassi, the 1992 champion playing in his last Wimbledon. The 36-year-old American, the oldest player in the men’s draw, got off to a slow start before beating 71st-ranked Boris Pashanski of Serbia-Montenegro, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3. Agassi, who announced last weekend that the U.S. Open in September will be his final tournament, had 17 aces and capitalized on 11 double faults by Pashanski – two coming on the last two points of the match. “I was a bit lost out there in the first set, a bit too nervous, then I settled in and managed to find a little bit of rhythm,” Agassi said. In his customary fashion, Agassi bowed and blew kisses to all corners of the court as the fans gave him a rousing ovation. Among those in the crowd was his wife, former seven-time Wimbledon champion Steffi Graf. Agassi wore a necklace with letters spelling out “Daddy Rocks,” which he said was made by the couple’s 4-year-old son, Jaden Gil. Agassi said he was moved by the loud reception he received while walking out for the match. “You expect to be overwhelmed wth the whole situation anyhow,” he said. “To feel that sort of support meant the world to me. I just wanted to do ’em proud. I got a little bit nervous and was trying too hard early.” Federer closed out his match with an overhead smash, then smacked a ball into the stands and basked in a huge ovation. Hewill next face Tim Henman, a four-time Wimbledon semifinalist who overcame Sweden’s Robin Soderling, 6-7(8), 6-3, 6-2, 1-6, 6-3. The British player is unseeded for the first time in 10 years because of a drop in his ranking. Henman leads Federer 6-4 in career matches, including a four-set win in the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2001. “It feels really good to be playing a match here at Wimbledon with really very limited, very little pressure and expectation,” Henman said with a smile. “I just want to go out there and let it happen.” Men’s fourth-seeded David Nalbandian, runner-up in 2002, crushed South Africa’s Wesley Moodie 6-3, 6-4, 6-1. Eighth-seeded James Blake was a 6-3, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 winner over Danish qualifier Kristian Pless. Thomas Johansson, seeded No. 12, was eliminated by fellow Swede Jonas Bjorkman, 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-1, 6-1; and No. 21 Gael Monfils of France lost in four sets to Igor Kunitsyn of Russia. Wild card Mark Philippoussis, runner-up in 2003, served 39 aces in a 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-3, 7-6(12) win over Paul-Henri Mathieu. In the second tie-break, Philippoussis led 5:2, then saved three set points to finish the contest on his fifth match point. The most dramatic match of the day belonged to Ivan Ljubicic. The Croatian, seeded fifth, needed seven match points before surviving the challenge from Feliciano Lopez of Spain and winning, 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 11-9. Less luck in a dramatic 5th set had Ljubicic’s compatriot Ivo Karlovic – he saved a match point in a 4th set tie-break, but squandered a double mini-match point leading 4:3 in a 5th set, and lost to Stanislas Wawrinka 6-7(5), 6-3, 2-6, 7-6(8), 9-11. A year before Karlovic lost 10-12 in the 5th set in the Wimbledon first round… In the longest first round match (4 hours 56 minutes), Italian qualifier Stefano Galvani defeated Alexander Waske 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4, 3-6, 16-14. Galvani – like Ljubicic – had to be patient because he wasted two match points leading 6:5, and three more at 10:9. Andy Roddick, seeded third and a finalist here the last two years, recovered from a 3:0 deficit in a 3rd set tie-break to win his first-round match over Janko Tipsarevic, 6-7(5), 6-4, 7-6(6), 6-2. It wasn’t beautiful. Roddick threw a racket and cursed at himself. Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko became, at No. 9, the highest-seeded men’s player to lose after being eliminated, 2-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(8), 6-3, by Colombia’s Alejandro Falla, who saved a set point in the 3rd set tie-break. Robby Ginepri, seeded 17th, was upset by fellow American Mardy Fish, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. On the evidence of his opening match against Britain’s Alex Bogdanovic it will not be a freewheeling blitz. Beforehand the talk was of Rafael Nadal‘s sore left shoulder that forced his withdrawal at Queen’s Club. Inconvenienced or not, he never threatened to wrap up victory in time to watch Spain kick-off against France in Hanover. Poor Bogdanovic, ranked 133 places lower, was not so much outplayed as worn down 6-4, 7-6(3), 6-4 in fading light. Marcos Baghdatis, who will make the semifinals in 2006, barely escaped from an embarrassing loss as he defeated Alan Mackin 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-2 in 4 hours 21 minutes. In the 4th set Baghdatis was trailing *0:3 and serving to stay in the match in the 10th game.
Second round: (AP)
In only 1 hour, 25 minutes, Roger Federer clobbered 31-year-old Tim Henman, 6-4, 6-0, 6-2. Despite the fans doing the wave and stomping their feet to urge on Henman, the four-time Wimbledon semifinalist couldn’t muster up even a little challenge to Federer, who has now won 43 straight grass court matches. So dominating was Federer that the second question asked of Henman after the loss was whether he would ever return to Wimbledon. “I don’t know,” Henman said. “Definitely a few more years.” Sixth seed Lleyton Hewitt broke Hyung-Taik Lee‘s serve in the 10th game of the 5th set to clinch a 6-7(4), 6-2, 7-6(6), 6-7(5), 6-4 victory in a match that had been interrupted on Thursday night at the end of the fourth set. The Australian was on court 4 hours and 6 minutes – far from ideal preparation for Saturday’s third round meeting with Belgian Olivier Rochus. Hewitt, the 2002 champion, could have wrapped things up quicker if he had capitalized on the three break points he had on Lee’s serve in the 2nd game of the 5th set. The Korean saved all of those but his nerve failed him when he had to serve to stay in the match at 4:5, handing Hewitt victory with a lame forehand into the bottom half of the net. In other dramatic five-setter, Tomas Berdych struggled past Fabrice Santoro 6-4, 6-7(6), 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-4. The atmosphere was tense because Berdych was mocking Santoro and took (according to Santoro) a toilet break in an inappropriate moment. Anyway, the Frenchman led 5:3 in the 4th set and had a match point on serve in the 10th game of that set. World number two Rafael Nadal fought back from two sets down to beat Robert Kendrick. Nadal narrowly avoided falling victim to the first major shock of the fortnight, edging past the qualifier 6-7(4), 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-5, 6-4. Kendrick dominated early on with a superb attacking game-plan and was at one stage two points from victory (leading 5:4*, 30-all in the 4th set). “I was worried,” admitted the second seed. “It was very tough. He played a very good match. I had chances to break but he came up with a good serve every time. He served unbelievable. It made me think that I couldn’t afford any mistakes. It was important to come through. I think I played a good match overall.” The Spaniard sunk to his knees on converting his third match point as though he had won the title, and with good reason. The early drama came when a line judge fainted with Nadal serving at 1:2, and a five-minute delay followed before the unfortunate official was taken away in a wheelchair. When play resumed, Kendrick took a tight 1st set with five straight points in the tie-break and got the only break of the second in game two. Nadal was starved of chances but showed his fighting spirit in the third-set tie-break, moving 5:1 clear with a desperate cross-court forehand winner. A titanic 4th set saw Kendrick get to 5:4 up and 30/30 but Nadal did not falter, and in the following game Kendrick double-faulted facing a third break point. There was not much doubt who held the initiative going into the 5th and Nadal took advantage, breaking in game five and serving out for the win. Hey, give an old guy a break, would ya? Facing another backward-cap-wearing, twenty something opponent on the hottest day of the tournament, the 36-year-old Andre Agassi eliminated Andreas Seppi of Italy 6-4, 7-6(2), 6-4 to reach the third round. “It’s been too long, as far as I’m concerned, since I’ve felt good and was in a place where I could at least enjoy what’s going on out there,” said Agassi, the oldest man to reach Wimbledon’s third round since Jimmy Connors was 38 in 1991. Twice the winner of Grand Slam titles but having fallen to the depths of 87 in the world rankings, Marat Safin suffered a strangely disastrous second-round defeat to Fernando González, 4-6, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. Strange, because Safin sometimes played well enough to beat the 10th seeded Chilean. Disastrous, because to see potentially his best victory of the year appear and then vanish before his eyes will have made even harder the climb he must make to gain direct entry into the late summer Masters Series. It was second time that Gonzalez came back from two sets down against Safin, but a year before lost 5th set to the Russian in the Davis Cup first round. Irakli Labadze hit Gaston Gaudio, the 16th-seeded former French Open champion, off the court in straight sets. Novak Djokovic upset the 11th seeded Spaniard Tommy Robredo 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-4. Djokovic came back from a 0:4 deficit in the tie-break.
Third round: (BBC)
David Nalbandian didn’t fare any better at Wimbledon than his soccer team did in Germany. Nalbandian asked to play Friday’s third-round match early so he could watch Argentina take on Germany in the World Cup. Officials complied, and his match against Fernando Verdasco of Spain began at midday on Court 13, a remote location considering Nalbandian was a 2002 finalist and was seeded No. 4. Verdasco won 7-6(9), 7-6(9), 6-2, and Nalbandian had plenty of time to catch the start of the soccer match, which Germany won in a penalty shootout. “David made it known that he would like to watch the football,” said tournament referee Andrew Jarrett. “It’s not always possible to work around requests, but in this instance we were able to accommodate it.” When asked if the early start had hampered his preparations, Nalbandian replied: “Oh no. I didn’t play good,” he said. “I couldn’t return any serve. I missed a lot of chances. That’s part of the game.” Verdasco saved two and three set points respectively in both tie-breaks. Defending champion Roger Federer came through his most difficult test so far at this year’s Wimbledon to earn a 6-3, 7-6(2), 6-4 win over Nicolas Mahut. After two relatively straightforward victories, Federer found life more difficult against the serve-and-volley tactics of the world number 77 Mahut. “This was a tricky match, very difficult,” said Federer. “I expected a big serve but I didn’t expect such a big second serve. I enjoyed the challenge. I realized early on that I wanted to be the dominant player from the baseline. He had to take all the chances at the net.” Federer now plays 13th seed Tomas Berdych, who beat him at the 2004 Olympics, after the Czech player’s marathon win over 19th seed Tommy Haas. Berdych finally came through after 3 hours, 35 minutes to win 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(7), 4-6, 8-6 – his second consecutive five-set match. It is the second year in a row he has reached this stage at Wimbledon and he made round four at this year’s French Open. Haas after winning 1st set easily, led 5:4* in the 2nd. In the tie-break he led 6:3* & 7:6. Radek Stepanek staged a remarkable comeback to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time on Friday, beating former world number one Juan Carlos Ferrero 5-7, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2, 11-9 in just over 4 hours. The Monte Carlo-based Czech, seeded 14, looked down and out after losing a 2nd set tie-break, but he hit back to level the match before edging an 84-minute decider. But Stepanek retaliated in the third and fourth sets by firing down aces and lifting his overall game to push the duel to five sets. Luck appeared to be against the Spaniard in the final set when several net-cords fell in Stepaneks favour. One of them came when Ferrero was serving at 10:9 down, and equalled the game to 30/30. To Ferrero’s dismay Stepanek then produced a breathtaking winner one of 92 he hit during the match to earn match point. Stepanek had fallen at the third round stage at seven previous Grand Slams. James Blake‘s mind was as blank as his win column as he groped to explain why he is 0-9 in five-set matches. “I lose them. That’s the problem. I don’t know what it is,” he said finally – he had at the time equalled the worst 5-set record belonging to Markus Hipfl. He won’t use the word “curse” and he doesn’t think this succession of late-match flops has anything to do with fitness. But from the beginning of the final set Friday, in which he won only nine points, he looked like a man with an empty chamber and it took Max Mirnyi only 25 minutes more to dispatch him 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-0 and move into the fourth round at Wimbledon. It was Blake’s third five-set loss this season and second in a month after Gael Monfils took him out at the French Open. He says he doesn’t lose sleep over his five-set failures, but the more he talks about it, the more it seems to prey on him. He recalled his five-set loss to Fernando Gonzalez in Davis Cup. “He played great.” And Lleyton Hewitt. “I was cramping.” And Stanislas Wawrinka. “I was cramping a little bit as well.” “Nowadays, I feel I’m in great shape. I’m not worried about cramping. I just didn’t win today,” he said. “I don’t know what my problem is.”And then he added, almost a plea: “If anyone can figure out one thing, I’d love to hear it.” Rafael Nadal brought Andre Agassi‘s Wimbledon career to an end with a hugely impressive third-round win in blazing sunshine on Centre Court. The 20-year-old Spaniard found the kind of form that has won him two French Opens as he came through 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-4 in 2 hours 14 minutes serving 18 aces! As the match ended the Centre Court crowd stood to acclaim Agassi. He said: “I’ll never be able to repay you for the way you’ve embraced me over the years, so I thank you for that.” Andy Murray thrilled the Centre Court crowd as he dismantled third seed Andy Roddick‘s game on his way to a straight-sets win at Wimbledon. The 19-year-old Briton won 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-4 to surpass his debut effort last year and reach the fourth round. Murray edged the first set and then took control, breaking in game 10 of the second and twice more on his way to sealing victory in the third. By game 10 of the 2nd set, the pressure became too much. Murray missed two makeable backhands on set points but finally hit one down the line on the third opportunity. Roddick looked set to launch a comeback when he finally converted his first break point in 12 attempts in game five of the 3rd set trailing 1:3, but Murray stunned him again in the 10th game. “I think that’s got to be my best win,” Murray told BBC Sport afterwards, “beating a two-time Wimbledon finalist, former world number one and Grand Slam champion on Centre Court in three sets.” Fernando Gonzalez after beating Safin from a two-sets-to-love deficit, unexpectedly lost to David Ferrer wasting a double-set cushion, 6-4, 6-2, 2-6, 3-6, 4-6. Also Dmitry Tursunov made a stunning comeback upsetting Ivan Ljubicic 5-7, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(6), 6-2 after saving a match point in the 4th set.
Fourth round: (AP)
Roger Federer played three sets, barely needed a towel and departed wearing the stylish blazer he first unveiled last week. Looking cool despite a temperature in the upper 80s, Federer breezed past Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-3, 6-4. It was the 45th consecutive grass-court victory for Federer, extending his Open era record, and he needs three more for his fourth consecutive Wimbledon title. Federer has reached the quarterfinals without losing a set, and he has been broken only once despite a draw that other players would find daunting. “Going into the match, you know, you always feel like, ‘This is going to be a test,'” he said. “After one set and a half, you start to feel like you’re in control. So I have been tested, absolutely.” The last time Federer met on grass agianst his next opponent, it was in the first round in 2002, and Ancic won in straight sets. Federer hasn’t lost at Wimbledon since then. And he beat the big-serving Croat as recently as June in the French Open quarterfinals. Also on the horizon for Federer is a potential Sunday showdown against nemesis Rafael Nadal, of Spain, who beat Irakli Labadze 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-3. Nadal earned his first quarterfinal berth at a Grand Slam event other than the French Open, where he has won the title the past two years and beat Federer in the final three weeks ago. “If he made the final, that would be quite a surprise, I think, to many,” Federer said. It has been 40 years since a Spaniard won the Wimbledon men’s title, and 26 years since a man won the French Open and Wimbledon back to back. The No. 2-seeded Nadal has become a force on grass faster than even he expected, beating his past two opponents, including Andre Agassi on Saturday, without facing a break point. “It’s very important for me to be in the quarterfinals,” Nadal said. “I wasn’t thinking that before the tournament. I am playing a very, very good tournament.” Sprinting across the grass to extend the rallies the same way he does on clay, Nadal came up with perhaps the shot of the day against Labadze. With his back to the net near the sideline during a frantic exchange, Nadal hit a half-volley backhand crosscourt for a winner. “The guy’s a class player,” said 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt, who could meet Nadal in the semifinals. “He’s a great player on any surface. It was never going to take him long before he won some matches on grass and then started beating good players like Agassi and these kind of guys on the surface. So it doesn’t surprise me that he’s still in the tournament.” The No. 6-seeded Hewitt advanced by beating another Spaniard, No. 23 David Ferrer, 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5. Hewitt’s opponent in the quarterfinals will be Australian Open runner-up Marcos Baghdatis, who beat Andy Murray 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(2). Murray led 4:1* in the 2nd set and was two points away from 4th set as he led 6:5 (30-all). Mario Ancic came through a five-set marathon with Novak Djokovic to set up a quarter-final with Federer. The eighth seed used his punishing serves to take the opener but Djokovic answered by winning the next two sets with some brilliant ground-strokes. Ancic relied on his serve again to edge the 4th set and force the decider. Djokovic immediately called for the trainer and Ancic was never in danger as he broke to win the match 6-4, 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 in 3 hours, 24 minutes. In the 3rd game of the final set, Djokovic got something in his right eye and received medical attention. Afterward, he seemed distracted. Ancic broke him in the 4th game with a crazy running cross-court forehand, then disappeared in a blur. Ancic said his 31 aces were the major factor in the match and added: “I think I served really well today and had many aces. I was struggling with my returns but he served a big percentage.” Jarkko Nieminen became the first Finnish man to reach the quarter-finals after a stormy 7-5, 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-7(6), 9-7 win over Dmitry Tursunov in 4 hours 1 minute. Nieminen lost two match points in the fourth set tie-break – the second after a 42-stroke rally! And he won after a tense final set in which he was two points away from defeat serving at 6:7 (30-all) – if Tursunov had won the next two points, it would have been his second straight win erasing a match point in the 4th set. Both men were penalized by umpire Fergus Murphy. Tursunov was given a code violation while Nieminen lost a penalty point when his racket bounced out of court after he smashed it into the turf. Nieminen had to climb over the backwall to collect the racket and had to apologise to the fans behind the court. Tursunov was then involved in a finger-pointing exchange with the umpire as the players came off at the end of the match. Tursunov was fined £4,000 ($7,500) for calling Murphy “idiot” after the match… Jonas Bjorkman defeated doubles partner Max Mirnyi 6-3, 7-6(6), 4-6, 2-6, 6-3 to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals for the second time in his career. The 34-year-old Swede took the opener with some impressive play at the net and then came through a tense tie-breaker for a 2-0 lead. Radek Stepanek won a marathon match against Fernando Verdasco 6-7(4), 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 to reach the first Grand Slam quarter-final of his career. Stepanek, the 14th seed, was edged out in the first set tie-break but took the second set after winning the only break point. Verdasco, fresh from his win over fourth seed David Nalbandian in round three, regained his advantage by winning the third set. But Stepanek moved up a gear to win his second successive five-set match against a Spaniard.
Quarterfinals: (LA Times)
For a moment, just one, after Mario Ancic had played a heated point of harder and harder-hit forehands, he hit one too well. It flew past Roger Federer, who barely dents the grass on Wimbledon’s Centre Court as he runs on his toes. Ancic had broken Federer’s serve. And then held his own at love, four straight points that caused Ancic to pump his fist and shout. Hah, Federer thought to himself. Does this young man from Croatia think he can beat me? So here’s what Federer did. He held his own serve at love. By placing balls in the deepest corners of the service box, where Ancic needed a magnifying glass to see the spot. By drawing Ancic to the net, then zinging a backhand past his head. By hitting shots others can’t dream about and making them seem simple as 1 plus 1 plus 1. The result Wednesday was three – another three-set, straight-set quarterfinal win for Federer, the top-seeded and the best player in the world. In a match interrupted twice by rain, Federer first befuddled then depressed Ancic, who is seeded seventh, with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win. “I did exactly what I have to,” Ancic said, “then I was getting passed or I was getting some winners from him from nowhere.” So thoroughly elegant and engaging was Federer’s tennis that it was hard to go watch the more mundane matches. Luckily for Jonas Bjorkman he was playing while Federer was so thoroughly producing awe in fans and Ancic. Bjorkman, who beat Martina Hingis’ new boyfriend Radek Stepanek, earned a semifinal meeting with Federer with his 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-7(5), 7-6(7), 6-4 win in 4 hours 3 minutes. And, at 34, Bjorkman became the oldest Wimbledon semifinalist since Jimmy Connors (also 34) in 1987. Bjorkman responded to the enthusiastic Court One crowd by hugging himself hard four times, imitating how he felt the fans had embraced him. As soon as Bjorkman left, those cheers turned quickly to boos. Bjorkman saved a match point when Stepanek served at 7:6 in the tie-break. Federer was so efficient, winning over Ancic in 1 hour, 47 minutes, that there was plenty of time for sixth-seeded Lleyton Hewitt and Australian Open finalist and No. 18-seeded Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus to play. And it was Baghdatis winning with style 6-1, 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-2. His flashy forehands and pumping fists brought the crowd to its feet as well. The start of the match was astonishing – Baghdatis playing an inspired tennis won 9 out of the first 10 games! Thanks to that win he became third man to advance to the Top 10 not having won an ATP tournament. Second seed Rafael Nadal ground down Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 to reach the Wimbledon semifinals where he will meet Baghdatis. The match was held over from Wednesday because of rain. Double French Open champion Nadal, looking more and more comfortable on unfamiliar grass courts, wore down Nieminen’s resistance in long baseline rallies, breaking his serve in each set. The Finn, seeded 22, tried to mix up his shots and volleyed successfully when he could get to the net. He saved a match point with a forehand down the line. But Nadal’s movement and retrieval skills were too much and the Mallorcan reached his first Wimbledon semifinal after 2 hours 15 minutes, with an uncharacteristic volley on his second match point. Nadal said every part of his grass game had improved since he arrived last week. “I am playing with more confidence, especially with my serve,” he said. “With my forehand I am especially improving. I am coming in a bit more. That’s very important on this surface… It’s very important to play aggressive,” he added. “I am still learning for sure. I am 20 years old and I need to improve and improve always.” Nadal is the first Spanish man to reach a semifinal at Wimbledon since Manuel Orantes in 1972. The only Spanish man to win the singles title was Manuel Santana in 1966.
Semifinals: Howard Fendrich
Now Roger Federer gets Rafael Nadal on his turf. With a performance he deemed flawless, three-time Wimbledon champion Federer won the most lopsided men’s semifinal in tournament history, beating Jonas Bjorkman 6-2, 6-0, 6-2 on Friday. Top-ranked Federer’s reward? A championship match Sunday against No. 2 Nadal, who got past No. 18 Marcos Baghdatis 6-1, 7-5, 6-3 to extend his surprising run at the All England Club. Federer is 0-4 against Nadal in 2006, 55-0 against everyone else. But three of the losses came on clay, including in last month’s French Open final, and they’ve never met on grass – where Federer has won a record 47 consecutive matches, including 27 at Wimbledon. “He is the best on all surfaces,” Nadal said, “but here more.” That’s for sure. Federer will try to join Bjorn Borg and Pete Sampras as the only men since World War I to win four straight Wimbledon titles. Nadal stands in the way. “I know I can beat him,” said Federer, who’s won seven major titles. “I don’t need to think of playing against him. I need to focus on me playing on grass, my style, playing aggressive. It’s going to be easier on grass to do that than on clay.” Clay is slower, grass is slicker, and each make different demands on footwork and shotmaking. That’s why it’s so rare for players to succeed on both: no man has won the French Open and Wimbledon back-to-back since Borg did it in 1978-80. And it’s been 54 years since the same two men met in the finals of these two Grand Slam tournaments (in 1952, Jaroslav Drobny beat Frank Sedgman in Paris, Sedgman took a revenge at Wimbledon – both matches concluded in four-setters). This is how big-time rivalries are born. “They’re very close. They’re the two best players in the world at the moment,” said Baghdatis, who lost to Federer in the Australian Open final. “You cannot say one is the best – you have to take both of them.” Federer’s bid to won four consecutive majors fell short at Roland Garros, when Nadal beat him for a second French Open title. Federer wanted another crack at his nemesis, saying before Nadal-Baghdatis was finished: “Obviously, I would like to play Rafael, because of the matches we’ve had in the last couple of months.” Both men were brilliant Friday. Nadal saved all nine break points he faced against Baghdatis and compiled a 43-16 ratio of winners to unforced errors. Federer, meanwhile, was simply sublime against the 34-year-old Bjorkman, the oldest Wimbledon semifinalist since 1987 and a player who’s greatest success has come in doubles, with eight major championships. The way Federer played, one wondered whether Bjorkman would have had a chance even if there’d been another player at his side. “I felt like I played a guy who was as near to perfection as you can play the game,” the 59th-ranked Bjorkman said. “I had the best seat in the house.” He did, indeed, as Federer mixed speeds, volleyed with precision, and alternated serves like a pitcher going from fastball to changeup and back again. One of Federer’s shots was so hard, it nearly knocked the racket out of Bjorkman’s hand. Federer never faced a break point, went 7-for-9 on his break chances, conjured up 30 winners to only 13 unforced errors, and won 11 games in a row. He’s closing in on being the first man to win Wimbledon without dropping a set since Borg in 1976. “I can’t rely on a performance every time (that’s) flawless, straight sets, no worries, no break points, all this stuff,” Federer said. “A final is always very different because the pressure is much higher.” He should know, having reached the finals of his past 16 tournaments, including five Grand Slams. If a spot in the Wimbledon final almost feels like a birthright for Federer at this point, no one expected the 20-year-old Nadal to get there this quickly. Not Federer. Not Nadal. No one. “Two weeks ago, I didn’t even think about this,” said Nadal’s uncle and coach, Toni. “I am surprised.” Nadal, close to tears after beating Baghdatis, said: “I’m very emotional. It’s amazing to be in the finals.” His record 60-match winning streak on clay was built with punishing strokes and unbridled tenacity. But grass doesn’t afford him the same amount of time to track down opponents’ shots, nor does it allow him to slide into position.
Nobody can stop Roger Federer on grass. No. 1 got even against No. 2 as Federer ended a five-match losing streak to Rafael Nadal on Sunday, winning 6-0, 7-6(5), 6-7(2), 6-3 to earn his fourth straight Wimbledon title and eighth Grand Slam championship (39 titles altogether at the time). Nadal had beaten Federer in four finals this year, including at the French Open last month, but couldn’t match him on the Swiss star’s favorite surface. Not here, not in my house, not on Centre Court, not on the biggest stage in tennis. That was Federer’s response to the 20-year-old Spaniard’s challenge. After dropping the third set, the only set he lost all tournament, Federer lifted his game in the fourth to show who’s boss. “I’m very well aware how important this match was for me,” he said. “If I lose, it’s a hard blow for me. It’s important for me to win a final against him for a change, and beat him for a change. Wimbledon I knew was going to be the place for me to do it the easiest way, and it turned out to be tough.” The milestones keep piling up for the 24-year-old Federer, who strengthens the case for consideration as being among the greatest players of all time. In winning his 48th consecutive match on grass, he became the third player in the Open era to capture four successive Wimbledon championships, joining Bjorn Borg (five straight from 1976-80) and Pete Sampras (1997-00). “They’re heroes of the game,” Federer said. “This is the most important tournament, and to win four is out of this world. I’ll come back and try for a fifth.” When Nadal sliced a backhand wide on match point, Federer raised his arms in the air, threw back his head and closed his eyes. After the two players embraced at the net, Federer slipped into his customized cream-colored blazer to receive the winner’s trophy from the Duke of Kent. Asked about his rivalry with Nadal, he said, “Now I like it again.” Federer is the eighth man in history to win four or more Wimbledon titles. William Renshaw and Sampras lead the list with seven championships, but Federer is on course to break the mark. “It’s fantastic,” he said. “I never thought it possible, but I made it. It’s really an incredible feeling. I was doubting myself early on in the tournament, with the draw and the expectations. So to be through all over again and to play against Rafael in the finals is obviously fantastic.” Nadal came into Sunday’s match with a 6-1 record against Federer. Federer’s only losses this year have been to Nadal – he is 55-0 against everyone else. “I’m relieved now that I finally beat him, especially in a final,” Federer said. “He’s No. 2 and I’m trying to stay at No. 1. I’m back on the right path.” But anyone who thought Nadal had gotten into Federer’s mind was wrong on this day. Federer proved he’s on another level on grass with his big serves, smooth strokes and quick hands. While Nadal – winner of a record 60 straight clay-court matches – surprised everybody by getting this far, his brutal, relentless game wasn’t enough to take Federer out of his comfort zone. “It’s important for me to play good in this final,” Nadal said. “It’s important for me for the future belief that I can win here. It is important for me to believe I can win against Roger here on this surface. It was an unbelievable tournament for me. But this year I played my best tournament here. It’s unbelievable. I hope next year I don’t play against one guy who plays like Roger. He played unbelievable on this surface.” The defeat ended Nadal’s streak of victories in 14 consecutive finals. It wasn’t quite up to the standard of Federer’s near flawless performance in the semifinals against Jonas Bjorkman. Both players were almost even on winners – 43-42 for Federer – and the Swiss had more unforced errors than Nadal – 32 to 26. But Federer could always count on his serve: he won 77 percent of points on first serve, compared to 68 percent for Nadal. Federer broke Nadal six times and lost serve three times. Nadal was seeking to become only the second Spaniard to win the title. The only one to do it, 1966 champion Manolo Santana, was in the Royal Box for the occasion. There was a real buzz in the stadium when the players arrived on court – Federer in his blazer and Nadal in his biceps-baring sleeveless white shirt. Nadal sprinted to the baseline and hopped up and down like a boxer before a title fight. But Nadal looked lost in the first set, as Federer reeled off six straight games in 25 minutes. He broke Nadal three times and finished the set with two clean forehand winners. It was the first time Nadal had lost serve since the second round, and the first time he’s dropped a set at love in 131 matches – since a defeat to Gaston Gaudio in Buenos Aires in February 2005. Nadal bounced back quickly, breaking Federer in the opening game of the 2nd set. He served for the set at 5:4, but was broken as Federer won 12 of 13 points at one stretch to force a tiebreaker. Nadal had his chances again, going up 3:1 in the tiebreaker, but handed back the advantage with two errors. Federer went up 6:3, and, after missing two set-point chances, converted on the third. There were no breaks in the 3rd set. Federer played some loose points in the tiebreaker and, from 2:2, Nadal won five straight to win the set. He backpedaled and pumped his arms three times, then thumped his chest as he sat in his chair. Federer, meanwhile, went to the locker room for a break. Federer came back out and dominated most of the 4th set, going up two breaks at 5:1. Uncharacteristically, he was broken serving for the match. But Federer got another chance two games later, and served out the match at love. Federer won $1.2 million, while Nadal got $600,000. Stats of the final