SI.com 2003 Wimbledon



Federer draws comparisons to Sampras

Posted: Monday July 07, 2003 2:07 AM

LONDON, July 6 (Reuters) -- There was something strangely familiar about the languid, almost lazy brilliance with which Roger Federer broke his Grand Slam duck in a tear-laden triumph over Mark Philippoussis at Wimbledon on Sunday.

The 21-year-old Swiss' three-set neutralization of the Australian cannonball server bore many of the hallmarks of a not-so-long-gone era, that of American seven-time winner Pete Sampras.

With his textbook serve-volley technique, panther-like prowling of the baseline and unruffled on-court demeanor, Federer has plenty in common with the semi-retired American, the last of whose Wimbledon triumphs was in 2000.

Frighteningly for future opponents, though, Federer probably has even more weapons than Sampras.

His flourished backhand is a work of art, while his improvisation and ability to play on any court surface are qualities Sampras would have envied.

However, Sunday's success was only his first Grand Slam title, compared to Sampras' record total of 14, and for now the Swiss is happy just to be compared to the American.

"This is one, compared to his seven [Wimbledon titles]. I'm so far away. But it's nice. If I look at the players who have won here, a lot have been idols to me," Federer said.

"Just to be on the board with these people, it's just nice to be part of the history of Wimbledon and Grand Slams in general."

Two years ago, at age 19, Federer ended Sampras' 31-game winning streak on Centre Court with a thrilling five-set victory in the fourth round.

If that moment signaled that a changing of the guard was imminent, Sunday marked the moment the Swiss commenced sentry duty.

American Andy Roddick, the 20-year-old who has been tagged the new Sampras and who was thrashed by Federer in the semifinals on Friday, is well placed to compare the two.

"Roger has a lot more spin on his shots. They both serve, they both volley, they can do everything pretty well, but Roger's not on you all the time," Roddick said.

"He plays a little bit more, then he picks his shot. Maybe he's a little bit more patient. Whereas Pete was [at you] all the time, all the time, all the time."

The Centre Court crowd gave Federer a standing ovation after his semifinal victory over Roddick on Friday and took him to their hearts when he so openly displayed his emotions in victory on Sunday.

"I've cried a few times on big occasions," Federer admitted. "Somehow, in the first moment, I don't think I will, but then I just can't keep it down.

"I could not believe it. I thought 'Am I dreaming? Is this true right now?' That is what went through my mind.

"Then you see the trophy and it's so beautiful. Gold. You don't have golden trophies very often.

"When you look at it and hold it, it's something you have always dreamed of.

"This tournament means so much to me. I've had great experiences, in the 1998 junior's victory, then 2001 when I beat Sampras and now this.

"It's something I can't understand yet. It's just too good."


 
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