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New men's champion heralded as new era dawns

Wimbledon welcomed a new champion and prepared itself for a new era as Switzerland's Roger Federer etched his name into grand slam history at the All England Club.

india Updated: Jul 07, 2003 13:09 IST
Reuters
Reuters
PTI

Wimbledon welcomed a new champion and prepared itself for a new era as Switzerland's Roger Federer etched his name into grand slam history at the All England Club.

The Swiss played, by his own astonished admission, the two best matches of his career in the grasscourt slam's semi-final and final, smiting powerhouses Andy Roddick and Mark Philippoussis with apparent ease.

That he lost a set to neither is a remarkable tribute to his timing and rare talent and an indication that he could be ready to dominate world tennis.

"I'm just happy to be on the board, you know," the 21-year-old smiled with characteristic modesty when asked if he could dominate in the way Pete Sampras had done at Wimbledon.

It was Federer who ended the seven-times champion's 31-match winning streak on Centre Court in 2001.

"I've had great experiences here... the '98 junior title, then when I beat Sampras, now this.

"This tournament means so much to me."

SWASHBUCKLING STYLE

On Sunday's showing, Federer is destined to be as important to the tournament as it is to him.

His swashbuckling style kept the crowds spellbound for a fortnight and his post-match tears on Sunday melted their hearts.

Former champion John McEnroe says Federer is a special kind of talent. One who can hit any shot, one which comes along only once every 10 or 15 years.

That he had never progressed beyond the quarter-finals of a grand slam in 16 previous attempts had become a source of worry and irritation to him.

His relief after becoming Switzerland's first male grand slam champion on Sunday was palpable.

"I proved it to everybody, you know," he beamed. "It is a big relief to me because there was pressure from all sides... also from myself. I wanted to do better in slams. Now I am holding the trophy -- it is hard for me to even think of it."

The phenomenal Williams sisters Serena and Venus felt they had some proving of their own to do when they stepped onto the lush green courts of south west London.

CHAMPION QUALITY

Serena had lost her French title last month in a flood of semi-final tears while Venus had bowed out in the last 16 to an unheralded Russian.

Back at Wimbledon both sisters were a class apart. Once again they contested an all-Williams final -- the sixth in grand slams. Venus won the first in the 2001 U.S. Open.

Serena has won the other five. After her victory, played in a subdued atmosphere as Venus struggled with injuries, Serena was pleased to be back on top of the pile.

"I should have won the French," she said. "Definitely I'm satisfied. I love playing here at Wimbledon. I love being a champion again. I love walking off the court and seeing my name up there."

Venus had been hampered by a stomach strain throughout and also a thigh strain in the final.

"What class, what spirit, what fight and what champion quality Venus showed today and throughout the tournament," her younger sister said.

"I've had good days and bad," was Venus's conclusion. "It was the one thing I dreaded happening the most at this tournament but knew it could happen because I wasn't 100 percent. But this is life."

"ALL SPECIAL"

Martina Navratilova grabbed a share of yet another Wimbledon record. Twenty-seven years after winning her first Wimbledon title, the women's doubles with Chris Evert, she won her 20th in the mixed doubles with Leander Paes.

Sunday's victory over Andy Ram and Anastassia Rodionova was her first here since the mixed in 1995 and drew the 46-year-old level for the record number of Wimbledon titles with Billie Jean King -- one of her victims in that 1976 final.

"I can't think, I can't talk," she said courtside afterwards. "They are all special. The last one was eight years ago and I didn't think I would play here again."

Thirty years after playing her first Wimbledon, she thanked her trainer and entourage. "It's been a great ride. What can I say, this is very special."

Australian Todd Woodbridge also grabbed a share of a record, winning an eighth men's doubles title when he and Sweden's Jonas Bjorkman beat Mahesh Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi.

Woodbridge, who won six of those titles with former partner Mark Woodforde and one with Bjorkman last year, matched the record set by brothers Hugh and Reggie Doherty between 1897 and 1905.

"It's beyond belief that I could do anything like this," said the 32-year-old, who now has 14 grand slam men's doubles titles to his name.

"I need a good partner to do it, but when I started out on my career I never thought I could achieve this."

First Published: Jul 07, 2003 11:31 IST