| Beaten finalist Mark Philippoussis has vowed to win Wimbledon before retirement
London: Roger Federer mesmerised man mountain Mark Philippoussis on Sunday to win his maiden Grand Slam crown and become the first Swiss men’s singles champion in Wimbledon’s 126-year history.
The magical 7-6 ((7-5), 6-2, 7-6 (7-3) Centre Court performance ripped up the 21-year-old’s tag of Grand Slam underachiever once and for all. “It’s just incredible... I don’t know how this is possible,” the fourth seed said, his voice breaking with emotion on the world’s most famous tennis court.
“A lot of people have come from Basel, from home, for this. It is so nice to share this moment, thanks to everybody,” he added, the enormity of becoming Switzerland’s first male Grand Slam champion dawning on him as he burst into tears.
For Philippoussis, nicknamed Scud for his big service, the defeat was painful, but this was a tournament which has breathed new life into a career pockmarked by injury. After three separate surgeries on his knee, the Australian had been told he may never play at the top level again.
“It’s been a long trip back, but this is only the beginning,” the 26-year-old said. “I’m definitely going to hold that trophy up before I retire, that’s for sure.”
Federer’s victory was so complete it immediately drew comparisons with seven-time champion Pete Sampras’ dominance of the All England Club turf. It was Federer who ended Sampras’ 31-match winning streak here in 2001 with a dramatic five-set win on Centre Court.
That match marked the end of the Sampras era and was the last time Federer reached a Grand Slam quarter final — his best performance before this week. Sunday’s final, however, may have marked the beginning of a Federer era at Wimbledon.
Champion in Halle before the Championships began, he is unbeaten on grass this year. His straight-sets defeat of Andy Roddick in the semi-final was a thing of beauty.
“I’m so happy with the way I played. It was the best two matches, maybe, of my career,” he said, wiping tears from his eyes before collecting his winners’ cheque for £575,000.
Standing 6ft 4ins and with his white shirt stretched across his barrel-chest, Philippoussis had cut an imposing figure from the start. He began in powerful fashion designed to disquiet the Swiss, but Federer was uncowed by the barrage of power. With a service action as smooth as any Swiss mechanism, he threw himself forward behind every delivery, angling volleys beyond his opponent’s reach.
With tension mounting as the first set inched towards a tiebreak, a mobile phone in the stands broke the hushed atmosphere. Its ring tone — the Morse code distress call of SoS — was apt given Philippoussis’ bludgeoning serves.
In the event, though, it was the Australian who needed rescuing when his serve misfired in the 10th point of the tiebreak. Two points later, Federer clinched the opener when the Australian thumped a return wide and long after 43 minutes.
Weaving and swaying on the baseline like a racket-wielding cobra, Federer struck again in the first game of the second set, breaking for a 1-0 lead. The Swiss raced to a 4-0 lead and there was no way back in that set for the Australian as Federer clinched it 6-2 in 71 minutes.
Playing with unerring Swiss timing, Federer’s thud of ball on sweetspot echoed around the spellbound arena as he reached for victory. But what Philippoussis lacked in subtlety, he made up for with ample force and just kept his nose ahead in the third set.
The Australian kept pounding down racket-bending serves. Federer matched him, throughout, forcing a second tiebreak. It was at this stage that Federer took off. He moved into a 2-1 lead with an angled backhand volley which bit into the grass before returning a 130 miles (209.2 km) per hour serve onto the baseline for a winner.
A vicious backhand return followed by an ace and a wild Philippoussis forehand into the net gave Federer a 6-2 lead and four championship points.
Two went begging before Philippoussis netted a backhand return and Federer fell to his knees on the grass.
He held his head in his hands and sat courtside before looking to the skies in wonder.
There was heartwarming applause for Philippoussis before Federer stepped up to collect his trophy.
He held it aloft, bathed in flashlight, as Wimbledon welcomed a new champion and, perhaps, a new era.
Celebration back home
Switzerland’s sports minister along with the man who taught Roger Federer to play led his compatriots’ tributes to the new Wimbledon champion. Federer’s demolition of Philippoussis in the final came six years after his compatriot Martina Hingis clinched the women’s crown.
Marc Rosset won the Olympic title in 1992 but Federer’s success was celebrated as a far greater achievement.