On July 5, 2009—exactly 11 years ago today—Roger Federer rewrote history when he outlasted Andy Roddick, 5-7, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 16-14, on Centre Court. Federer not only captured his sixth Wimbledon trophy, but set a new all-time record by becoming the first man in tennis history to win 15 Grand Slam titles.
“I’m happy that I broke the record here at Wimbledon, because this is always the tournament that’s meant the most to me,” Federer said. “It’s not really one of those goals you set as a little boy, but it’s been quite a career, and it feels amazing. But this is not why I’m playing tennis, to break records.
“I’ll keep playing for many more years, and I hope to come back here many years in the future.”
The previous record-holder, Pete Sampras, had flown in just to watch history in the making.
“It was a tremendous final,” the 14-time Grand Slam champion said. “Roger’s a friend. He’s a great player and a good guy. He’s got 15 now, and he’s only 27. He’ll contend here and at the US Open for many years, and if he keeps it going and stays healthy, he could get to 18 or 19, potentially.
“He’s a legend, and now he’s an icon. He’s a credit to the game.”
Roddick certainly had his chances in the final. He had quadruple set point at 6-2 in the second set tie-break, and winning any of them would have given him a two-set lead. More significantly, he had two break points at 8-all in the fifth set, and converting either would have given him a chance to serve out the match. Given that he hadn’t lost serve yet at that point, that could have been all she wrote.
Alas, Federer held and eventually broke serve for the first time in the match to end the stunning championship clash and release all the tension that had built up inside.
“It was so different to what I experienced the last few years with Rafa, where it was a baseline game,” said Federer, who had played Nadal in the three previous Wimbledon finals. “Today it was a serve and return game, which is more classical for grass. It was frustrating because I couldn’t break Andy until the very end, so maybe the satisfaction is bigger, because I couldn’t control the match at all.”
Federer has now held that Grand Slam record for 11 years, which is two years longer than Sampras did. The American passed the previous record-holder, Roy Emerson, by winning Wimbledon in 2000, and had it for exactly nine years before Federer took the torch after winning Wimbledon in 2009.
Emerson held the Grand Slam record for the entire Open Era before that, though. The Australian won his 12th and final major at the 1967 French Open, a year before the Open Era began, and that was the benchmark for over 33 years until Sampras finally passed him at the All England Club in 2000.
How much longer will Federer, who has since increased his haul to 20 majors, hang onto the record?
His two biggest rivals, Nadal and Novak Djokovic, have furiously closed the gap in the last 11 years. When Federer won his 15th major at 2009 Wimbledon, Nadal had six majors and Djokovic just one.
Fast forward to today, and 15-6-1 has tightened to 20-19-17…