Roger Federer’s big matches: A look at 10 Grand Slam finals
Roger Federer won 103 total titles as a professional tennis player. The very first came when he was 19 and beat Julien Boutter 6-4, 6-7 (7), 6-4 on an indoor hard court in Milan, Italy, in February 2001.
Federer, who announced his retirement at age 41 on Thursday, is best known for his 20 championships at Grand Slam tournaments: eight at Wimbledon, six at the Australian Open, five at the U.S. Open and one at the French Open.
A look at 10 of Federer’s most memorable Grand Slam finals:
— The first: Wimbledon in 2003
Federer won the 1998 junior title at the All England Club, and another sign of what was to come arrived when he ended seven-time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras’ 31-match winning streak in the fourth round there in 2001. But Federer had not made it past the quarterfinals at any major tournament until two years later at Wimbledon, when he earned his first Grand Slam trophy at age 21 with a 7-6 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (3) victory over Mark Philippoussis. “There was pressure from all sides; also from myself,” Federer said that day, after sobbing on court when the match ended.
— The first in New York: U.S. Open in 2004
Federer talked about the noise and all of the goings-on in New York, wondering aloud how he would deal with all of the conditions and distractions there. He won it the fifth time he entered, beating Lleyton Hewitt 6-0, 7-6 (3), 6-0 — the first time there had been two shutout sets in the event’s championship match since 1884. “I’m grateful every tournament, every Grand Slam I win. You never know which is your last,” Federer said then. That would be the first of five triumphs in a row at Flushing Meadows. He beat a string of opponents from multiple generations — all, like Hewitt, major champions and ranked No. 1 at some point — in the finals: Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
— The rival: French Open in 2005 and beyond
Federer’s first Grand Slam matchup against Rafael Nadal was in the semifinals of the 2005 French Open, which Nadal won en route to his first major trophy at age 19. Their first Grand Slam final came a year later in Paris, when Federer was 24 and 7-0 in major title matches for his career (the best start for a man since the 1880s). He also was riding a 27-match unbeaten streak at majors overall. They had met six times previously, but what was at stake in 2006 truly marked the beginning of what would become an enduring rivalry. It was the first French Open final since 1984 between men ranked No. 1 (Federer) and No. 2 (Nadal). Nadal won 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (4), using his high-bouncing, topspin-lathered lefty forehand to create big problems on Federer’s backhand side. The result made Federer 0-4 against Nadal in 2006, 44-0 against everyone else.
— The greatest: Wimbledon in 2008
After losing to Nadal in three straight French Open finals (2006-08) and beating him in two consecutive Wimbledon finals (2006-07), Federer carried winning streaks of 40 matches at the All England Club and 65 on grass courts into their latest meeting at Centre Court. In what many consider the greatest tennis match in the sport’s long history, Nadal ended Federer’s bid for a sixth championship in a row at Wimbledon by edging him 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7 as darkness descended after 9 p.m. in a 4-hour, 48-minute test of will as much as skill. “Probably my hardest loss, by far,” Federer said.
— The career Grand Slam: French Open in 2009
Federer became the sixth man with a career Grand Slam — at least one trophy at all four majors — and tied Sampras’ men’s record of 14 majors by beating Robin Soderling 6-1, 7-6 (1), 6-4 in Paris. This was one of Federer’s five appearances in the title match at Roland Garros, and the only one against someone other than Nadal. Instead, Federer beat the man who beat Nadal, Soderling. “I don’t know if we’ll ever know who was the greatest of all time, but I’m definitely happy to be right up there,” Federer said.
— No. 15: Wimbledon in 2009
Federer broke Sampras’ men’s mark for most Slam trophies with his 15th by scraping past familiar foil Roddick 5-7, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 16-14. Federer broke the big-serving Roddick for the only time in the 77th and last game. The match lasted 4 hours, 16 minutes; the fifth set alone was more than 1 1/2 hours. Afterward, Federer pulled on a specially tailored white jacket with a gold “15″ stitched on the back. Sampras said: “Now he’s an icon.”
— The comeback: Australian Open in 2017
Federer took the last half of 2016 off after surgery on his left knee, and he returned to claim his first Grand Slam title since 2012 by defeating Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 at Melbourne Park. Federer was down a break in the fifth set but roared back with the help of a 10-point run — and a new, flatter backhand — to grab his 18th major. Federer entered the day 2-6 against Nadal in Slam finals and said afterward: “This one means a lot to me because he’s caused me problems over the years.”
— No. 8 at the All England Club: Wimbledon in 2017
Federer, less than a month from turning 36, won his men’s-record eighth Wimbledon trophy, needing just 101 minutes to dismiss 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-1, 6-4. “Wimbledon was always my favorite tournament. Will always be my favorite tournament,” said Federer, the oldest male champion there in the Open era, which began in 1968.
— The last championship: Australian Open in 2018
Federer beat Cilic again for his third title in a five-major span and 20th Slam overall, although this one at Melbourne Park was much tougher: 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. Said Federer: “The fairytale continues for us, for me.”
— The last final: Wimbledon in 2019
Federer came as close as possible to earning title No. 9 at Wimbledon and No. 21 from all Slam tournaments but lost to Djokovic 7-6 (5), 1-6, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 13-12 (3) in the first fifth-set tiebreaker in a final at the All England Club. Federer held two championship points, but couldn’t convert. He finished with more total points, more winners, more aces and more breaks of serve. “I don’t want to be depressed,” Federer said, “about actually an amazing tennis match.”
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By HOWARD FENDRICH
AP Tennis Writer