| Federer goes down on his knees as Borg watches. (AFP, Reuters)
July 8: One moment Roger Federer was screaming he was being “killed”. The next, he had collapsed to his knees — the winner of a fifth straight Wimbledon singles title. Just like Bjorn Borg used to do.
In the royal box, Borg was applauding the man who had equalled his record. A few minutes later the two champions had exchanged hugs and smiles in front of the board that lists tournament winners.
“Thank you for coming out,” Federer said. “Not at all. Sure,” the Swede replied.
But Federer knew how “lucky” he was this evening.
The cool Swiss had threatened to self-destruct, nearly cracking under the strain of a ferocious onslaught from an inspired Rafael Nadal, but found some magic at crucial moments to win 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 2-6, 6-2.
“It was such a close match,” he said. “I told Rafa at the net he deserved it as well. I’m the lucky one today.”
“Five titles in a row, so fantastic,” Nadal said. “Well, anyway, I lose today, but I play great two weeks.”
Federer is now tied at 11 career majors with Borg and Rod Laver, trailing only Pete Sampras (14) and Roy Emerson (12).
Yet it had all threatened to come apart for him towards the end of the fourth set as Nadal used the Hawk-Eye replay technology one more time to telling effect, earning a crucial break point.
He had earlier saved a set point through a successful Hawk-Eye challenge of a line call in the first set.
At the start of the fourth, Federer took a toilet break and probably wished he had stayed there as Nadal broke twice to lead 3-0. The defending champion turned to chair umpire Carlos Ramos and demanded the Hawk-Eye be switched off.
As he sat down at the cha--ge-over, the normally composed Federer let out a yell in uncharacteristic rage: "It's killing me today."
The drama increased when Nadal called for treatment to his right knee while leading 4-1. Although he returned with tape below the knee cap, it didn't seem to slow him down.
He took the set when Federer hit a weary backhand into the net, taking the world No. 1 to a fifth set for the first time in his 13 Grand Slam finals.
The decisive moment came in the sixth game of the deci-der when Federer broke serve with a sublime forehand winner after a 14-stroke rally of extraordinary quality. It was his first break since the second game of the match.
"If Rafael had won one of these, I think maybe now Rafael would be the champion," said the Spaniard's coach, Toni Nadal.
The best Wimbledon final for several years ended two games later when Federer smashed a ball into the empty court before collapsing emotionally to the turf.
Nadal, who played two other five-set matches in a rain-plagued tournament, was on court for the seventh straight day. The defeat shatters his hopes of equalling another of Borg's feats - winning the French Open and Wimbledon the same year.
The clay-court specialist had defeated Federer in the past two French Open finals to spoil his bid to complete a career Grand Slam and claim the title of the best tennis player in history.
But today, the Swiss wasn't thinking about that. Was this his best Wimbledon' "Each one is special, no doubt," Federer said. "To hold the trophy is always the best thing."
WRITTEN WITH AGENCY REPORTS