WIMBLEDON, England -- Pete Sampras, Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg watched from the front row of the Wimbledon Centre Court Royal Box Sunday afternoon as Roger Federer aimed to make history and reclaim the No. 1 ranking.
American Andy Roddick, undaunted by the occasion, stood in the way. He put in the most courageous performance of his career, but still came up short in the longest men's final in the tournament's 132-year history. The final score was 5-7, 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 16-14 after four hours and 18 minutes of thrilling drama.
It was Federer's 15th Grand Slam title, breaking Sampras' record. It was also his sixth Wimbledon championship, and the third he won over Roddick. The American received a roaring ovation from the crowd after the marathon match, but that didn't dull the pain that was so evident on his face. Roddick left everything he had on that hallowed lawn, and it wasn't enough.
''I just want to say congratulations to Roger, he's a true champion and deserves everything he gets,'' Roddick said on the court, holding back tears. ``I tried. Sorry, Pete. I tried to hold him off. It was a pleasure playing here today in front of champions like Manolo (Santana), (Bjorn) Borg, Rod Laver, Pete. (stops to compose himself) I still hope one day my name will be up there with theirs as a champion of this tournament.''
Federer, wearing a customized white jacket with a gold ''15'' on the back, seemed giddy with excitement.
''He played unbelievable,'' Federer said of Roddick, turning to face him. ``Don't be too sad. I went through some rough ones, including last year. You're an unbelievable guy, a great player, and unfortunately in tennis there has to be a winner. I was on the lucky side today. My head's still spinning.
``It's an unbelievable moment in my career.''
After the match, Federer met with Sampras, Borg and Laver in the clubhouse. ''Roger's a great champion and in my book, the best ever,'' said Sampras. `I feel bad for Andy. He fought hard and this was his chance. But the great ones find a way. Roger had a little bit more. Roger is so smooth, looks effortless out there. He's a stud.''
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