/ Tennis

Federer retained belief in tough times

Updated: Sunday, 08 Jul 2012 22:22

Roger Federer, the man widely acknowledged as the GOAT (greatest of all time), will return to the top of the world rankings on Monday and will equal Pete Sampras' record of 286 weeks as world number one
Roger Federer, the man widely acknowledged as the GOAT (greatest of all time), will return to the top of the world rankings on Monday and will equal Pete Sampras' record of 286 weeks as world number one

Roger Federer never doubted his ability to win major titles during a two and a half year drought in which he was written off in some quarters and passed the age of 30 that often signals the beginning of the end for top players.

After winning his seventh Wimbledon title with an emphatic four-set victory over Andy Murray on Sunday, Federer said he been delighted with his form over the past year despite suffering some painful losses.

"I played an amazing French Open last year," the Swiss told a news conference. "I was very close against Rafa (Nadal) in the final. And I did play actually very well here as well against Jo (Wilfried Tsonga). Things just didn't turn out well for me."

Federer was knocked out of Wimbledon in the quarter-finals last year by Tsonga after going two sets up in their quarter-final and he held a match point against Novak Djokovic in the US Open semi-finals before suffering a painful defeat.

"I did play great as well at the US Open," he said.

"Again, unlucky. Djokovic played well, whatever you want to call it. But things were tough for me there."

Federer, whose last grand slam triumph was the 2010 Australian Open, said he always believed things would turn around for him if he continued to work hard despite Nadal and Djokovic's dominance at the majors.

"I played a lot of tennis, good tennis, but I wanted to win titles, not just lose in quarters and semis," he said.

"Then the confidence rose as I went to Paris and also to London. This is when I realised a lot is possible in 2012."

Federer said his life had changed enormously since the birth of his twin daughters in 2009.

"People forget sometimes I do have twin girls," he said. "That has had a massive impact on my life. I think it's helped my game more than anything because I think I'm playing some of the best tennis of my life right now.

"But just to be able to juggle everything together has been a challenge. And I think you learn from mistakes. You try to make it work for everyone involved. Hasn't always been easy, I admit that."

The twins and Federer's wife Mirka were on Centre Court to watch him dash Murray's hopes of winning his first grand slam title and become the first British man to win the Wimbledon crown for 76 years.

"The victory today is a dream come true today for me and my family, seeing them there," said Federer who will also return to the top of the world rankings.

"At Wimbledon I think he (Murray) handles it so perfectly to be quite honest. I really do believe deep down he will win grand slams, not just one. I do wish him all the best. This is genuine. He works extremely hard."

Federer, 30, admitted he had not yet been able to assess the significance of his 17th grand slam title.

"Honestly this one hasn't quite sunk in yet for some reason," he said. "I guess I was trying to be so focused in the moment itself that when it all happened I was just so happy that it was all over and that the pressure was gone basically."

Andy Murray laid his emotions bare as another grand slam dream ended in tears.

Murray has now joined his coach, Ivan Lendl, in losing his first four grand slam finals, and the emotion of the moment showed in a halting and tearful on-court interview.

"I'm getting closer," he said, as his voice started breaking.

He stepped away from the microphone for a minute before returning to say: "I'm gonna try. This is not going to be easy. Firstly I'd like to congratulate Roger.

"I was asked the other day, 'Is this your best chance, Roger is 30 now?'.

"He's not bad for a 30-year-old. He played a great tournament. I know he had some struggles with his back, but he showed what fight he had. He deserves it.

"I'll try not to look at him as I'll start (crying) again. Thanks to everyone who has supported me. You did a great job. It's always tough."

The two players embraced afterwards, and Murray later explained he had apologised for his weeping.

There were tears of joy after his semi-final win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, but today's were of despair.

"I just said to Roger, 'Sorry'. I didn't want that to happen. It's like you're attention-seeking or something. It was not like that at all," Murray said.

"And I knew it before, because they asked me if I wanted to do the interview. I knew it was going to be hard because I just felt it. I didn't know if I wanted to do it, but I tried.

"I've seen Roger do the same thing a couple times before, so he kind of knows what it's like.

"He just laughed. He said, 'This is meant to be the easy part', doing the speeches after the match. But sometimes it feels quite hard compared with playing a tennis match."

Murray had played three previous grand slam finals, losing to Federer in the US Open in 2008 and the Australian Open in 2010, while he was also beaten by Novak Djokovic in Melbourne last year.

In all those matches he failed to win even a set, and, particularly in the defeat by Djokovic, did not play anything approaching his best tennis.

It was a very different story today, with Murray certainly the better player in the first set and also until the closing games of the second, and it needed Federer at his best to deny him.

The Scot said: "I'd say that's the best I've played in a slam final. I created chances, I went up a set.

"It was a long match. Even the last two sets, I still had chances. The game where I got broken in the third set was a very, very long game. I had a lot of game points."

Indeed it lasted almost 20 minutes and Federer emerged from it with a 4-2 lead.

"It wasn't like I gave away bad games or stupid games and stuff," Murray said. "I played a good match. I made pretty good decisions for the most part, so I'm happy with that.

"I felt more comfortable this morning and before the match than I had done maybe in the previous slams."

The rain delay and the deployment of the Centre Court roof proved a major catalyst in the match, and both men saw their games go in opposite directions after the restart.

Murray added: "When we came out after the break he was more aggressive on my serve. I maybe didn't serve as well under the roof as I did the first couple of sets.

"The second set I had some chances and I didn't quite get them. Matches often change over a couple of points here and there. Maybe if I got the break in the second set it could have been different, or not got broken from 30-0 up at 6-5.

"After the break he was a bit more aggressive. And because he has excellent timing, when there's no wind under the roof, he times the ball very, very well. He was able to go for his shots a bit more."

Murray felt Federer was never far away from the 17th grand slam title he achieved today.

"He's still playing amazing tennis," said the world number four. "A lot of people have been asking me, 'Has he started slipping? Is he not playing as well?'.

"If you look at the grand slam matches he lost the last couple years, they were very, very close matches, matches he definitely could have won.

"He could be sitting on 20 grand slams but for one point or a couple of inches here or there. I don't think you get to number one unless you deserve it. It's a great, great week for him."

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