Federer shoots down Scud to win title
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Federer shoots down Scud to win title

It takes seven matches to win a Grand Slam title. And for Roger Federer it was like scaling the Swiss Alps as he turned in a commanding display to crush Mark Philippoussis.

india Updated: Jul 07, 2003 11:25 IST
S. Kannan

It takes seven matches to win a Grand Slam title. And for Roger Federer it was like scaling the Swiss Alps on Sunday evening as he turned in a commanding display to crush Mark Philippoussis 7-6 (7/5), 6-2, 7-6 (7/3) in the men's singles final at The Championships.

As Philippoussis hit a backhand return into the net to signal the end, Federer sank on his knees, just not believing it. The emotion that had gone into the Swiss master's first Grand Slam title victory for the loss of just one set was simply too much. But there was more to come from the new Wimbledon champion.

Federer finished walking those 20 steps to his chair and the moment had sunk in. He sat alone and let the tears roll down his cheek.

Come on, if you thought it was only the ladies who exhibited such display of emotion on court, Federer too showed he was a human. The 21-year-old actually had to be comforted by referee Alan Mills as the winner's trophy was to be presented by the Duke of Kent in a few minutes.

"I grew up as a boy joking I was going to win this one day. If you ask me now, I don't know how I did it. It's a dream come true," said Federer, who played unbelievable tennis the whole afternoon to take the winner's cheque of 5,75,000 pound sterling.

The Championships have seen several new champions being produced, some as young as Boris Becker and some as old as Jana Novotna. But Federer's was indeed like a dream come true. After the dominance of the baseliners in the last edition and their extended run this year too, it was refreshing to have someone like Federer and Philippoussis play the final. Even though both were playing their first final on the famous lawns of SW 19, they did not show any signs of tension. If the Australian was cranking up big serves, Federer was not to be left behind. It was almost as if the Swiss was competing on the ace count -- he finally raced ahead with 21 in the match.

The question was how long was this going to last. Philippoussis, for all his exploits these years, has been suspect with his temperament when it comes to the real test. And on Sunday, the real test was the first set tiebreaker. Till then, Scud, as the handsome Aussie of Greek origin is known, had stayed cool and composed. But with Federer coming up with those big shots on either flank, Philippoussis had to show he could handle the tiebreak pressure well.

It was neck and neck till 3-3. The pressure was intense and errors had to creep in. Sure enough, Philippoussis cracked, made two errors in a row and then double faulted to make it set point for Federer. It became 6-5 when Federer returned wide. Federer then served and Philippoussis's return went long as he lost the set.

Such was the shift in momentum, Philippoussis failed to focus well. On his part, Federer upped the pace a notch. He forced a break right in the first game of the second set and in no time registered another break of serve to lead 3-0.

For Philippoussis, it was more than half the battle lost, with mind games coming into play. If the Aussie was planning to come back in a best of five thriller -- as he had shown twice before --- he had to come up with solid stuff. Sadly, on Sunday, it was the smiling Swiss who played like an assassin.

If it was the serve, Federer came out tops. And when the champion was returning, he had a plan - shorten the swing and whack it back. One area where Federer looked far too superior was the groundstrokes. The way Federer churned them out with aplomb was fantastic. Most pros go cross court with the backhand. But Federer is so immensely talented, he kept finding winners with the down the line variety and showed that he was no bunny while executing the forehand. The forehand came in pretty handy whenever Federer had to pass tall Philippoussis. If Philippoussis was to still hang in there, he had to return well. That never happened.

In the third set, Philippoussis's body language said it all. Scud was not comfortable but hung in. Deep down, he knew if it went to the tiebreak, it would be impossible to handle. Points in the tiebreak were gone through so fast, Federer led 6-1. In the end, when Philippousiss sent that return into the net, you had to feel sorry for the Aussie. Philippoussis had done exceedingly well as an unseeded player to get this far. But champions don't do just well --- they go a step further as Federer showed on Sunday.

First Published: Jul 06, 2003 19:54 IST