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Final glory beckons for Federer, Philippoussis

Roger Federer grew up idolising Wimbledon champions Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker and on Sunday he will have a chance to add himself to the roll of honour.

india Updated: Jul 05, 2003 18:52 IST
Reuters
Reuters
PTI

Roger Federer grew up idolising Wimbledon champions Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker and on Sunday he will have a chance to add his name to the All England Club's roll of honour when he faces Mark Philippoussis in the final.

Should he lift the coveted Challenge Cup, the Swiss will emulate Becker in becoming the first men's grand slam winner from his country.

Ever since he dared to end the reign of seven-times champion Pete Sampras in five spectacular sets in the fourth round of Wimbledon two years ago, Federer has been touted as the American's heir apparent.

But it has taken the 21-year-old, arguably the most talented player on the ATP Tour yet to win a grand slam, two frustrating years to finally have a chance of fulfilling his immense potential.

"I knew it was in me but I didn't know what it takes," Federer said after demolishing bookmakers' favourite Andy Roddick 7-6 6-3 6-3 in the semi-finals on Friday.

"I didn't know if it was a matter of time, or if it needs work, or it needs whatever.

"But after winning against Pete, I didn't believe I could be in the finals two years later, even though people were predicting that."

Since announcing his arrival to the tennis world, Federer himself has suffered several early defeats at the grand slams.

Being humbled in the first round of Wimbledon last year by unheralded Croatian Mario Ancic proved to be particularly painful.

When Federer suffered a similar fate at Roland Garros just over a month ago, the doubts must have started creeping into his own mind.

But with his favourite grasscourt season looming fast, Federer was determined to prove his detractors wrong.

LONG TIME

"Now, being in a final it is tough. I've been here for two and a half weeks and that's a long time," said Federer, who had never gone past the quarter-finals at any of the four major events before.

"I'm not used to staying at one place for so long, really. You come and go. I'm happy also to put all this kind of negative talk that I don't perform in slams (behind me).

"I proved how good I can play today and I really hope I can take this into the final.

While Federer was climbing up the tennis ladder in 2001, Philippoussis was facing a totally different battle.

The Australian was told by doctors in New York that he would never play top flight tennis again after undergoing a third operation on his left knee in the space of 14 months.

Confined to a wheelchair for two months, the big-serving Philippoussis was determined that his career was not going to end with just one runner-up spot -- in the 1998 U.S. Open -- against his name.

He hauled himself back on feet and began the long road back to reclaiming a career that had seen him achieve a career-high ranking of eighth in the world in 1999.

"Just having your name on the trophy would be a dream come true," said the Australian after his comprehensive 7-6 6-3 6-3 victory over Frenchman Sebastien Grosjean in the semi-finals.

"A lot of tennis players, when they are kids, dream of winning Wimbledon. The history of this tournament is great and hopefully I'll have a chance to be part of it.

"Obviously it's been very tough. I've been through a lot but everything in life happens for a reason. I've always said that so everything's been worthwhile.

"I've still got one match to play so nothing to get excited about," he said. "I'm just thinking about getting my body ready and coming up for the match and playing a good match."

First Published: Jul 05, 2003 18:52 IST