Swiss journalist and author Rene Stauffer chronicles in detail three of the most important matches between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick in his definitive Federer biography THE ROGER FEDERER STORY, QUEST FOR PERFECTION (New Chapter Press, $24.95, www.rogerfedererbook.com), the first U.S.-published book on the Swiss tennis champion. In the 2004 Wimbledon final, a coach-less Federer sustained a Roddick surge to win his second Wimbledon title – and his third Grand Slam tournament title. At Wimbledon in 2005, Federer dominated Roddick to win his third Wimbledon title and his first Grand Slam tournament title with his father Robert Federer in attendance. In the 2007 Australian Open semifinals, Federer played one of the greatest matches of his career to throttle Roddick 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 en route to his third Australian Open. The book excerpts that chronicle these matches are featured below.
2004 Wimbledon Final – Federer def. Roddick 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (3), 6-4
On a rainy, bitterly cold Fourth of July, Federer played Roddick, who not only was in his first Wimbledon final on his country’s Independence Day, but on the birthday of his older brother John. Roddick clearly emerged as a solid No. 2 in the rankings behind Federer and took the identity of Federer’s primary challenger, especially on grass. The head-to-head between the two stood at 5-1 in the favor of Federer, who unlike the year before in his semifinal match with Roddick, was now considered the heavy favorite.
But Roddick and his coach Brad Gilbert both did their homework. Roddick played with an intensity that was palpable all the way to the top rows of Centre Court. Roddick’s power game dominated the early stages of the match as his brutal groundstrokes and lighting serve gave him the first set 6-4. The second set turned into a inexplicable rollercoaster ride—Federer took a 4-0 lead and had a point for 5-0, but lost two service games in a row and allowed Roddick to square the set at 4-4. But the tennis gods were in Federer’s favor. At 6-5, a let court winner gave him a set point. A gorgeously played running cross court forehand winner on the next point gave Federer the set.
The defending champion, however, was still unable to seize complete control of the match. In the third set, he trailed 2-4 when the heavens intervened as rain forced a temporary suspension in the action. The delay lasted 40 minutes and—as strange as it may sound—proved to be a pivotal moment in the match.
The rain stoppage also provided the Australian Pat Cash enough time on the BBC TV coverage of the match to make another false prediction—he wouldn’t bet any money on Federer winning the match. But Federer returned to the court as a man transformed and with a new tactic. As Cash used to do with much success, Federer rushed the net with greater frequency and began to win more and more points in that position. He won the third set in a tiebreak and was able to fend off six break points in the fourth set, before he broke Roddick’s serve at 4-3 without losing a point. In just a matter of minutes, Federer was again the Wimbledon champion.
It was 5:55 pm local time in Great Britain when Federer sank to his knees and rolled onto his back having once again won the greatest title in tennis. The sun, meanwhile, came out from the clouds, and like the year before, showered the award ceremony in sunshine. As with the ceremony in 2003, the tears flowed. “At least this time I managed to hold them back a bit during the award ceremony,” he remarked. “I’m even happier than last year.”
He admitted how surprised he was at Roddick’s aggressive and solid play. Federer said he himself made the decision during the rain delay in the third set to change tactics and to play more serve and volley. Of this, he said, he was proud. “Coach Federer is satisfied with Federer the tennis player,” he quipped.
2005 Wimbledon Final – Federer def. Roddick 6-2, 7-6 (2), 6-4
Federer unleashed a storm against Roddick at the start of the match—winning the first set in 22 minutes—a glaring difference to the previous year when the American dominated him from the start. In the second set, after the two players exchanged early breaks, Federer dominated the tie-break, taking it 7-2 to take a two-sets-to-love lead.
Although it was barely drizzling, Wimbledon officials ordered a suspension of play after the second set. Most of the spectators stayed in their seats, including Robert Federer, who watched his son play live in a Grand Slam final for the first time. While wife Lynette sat in the players’ box alongside Roche and Mirka Vavrinec, Robert sat on the complete opposite side of Centre Court.
Robert Federer didn’t have good memories of Wimbledon and it required courage for him to even venture to Centre Court to watch his son. His memories from his last visit to the All England Club in 2002 were still vivid—when he sat in the Players’ Box and expected to see his son roll through an easy first-round win over Croatia’s Mario Ancic. Instead, he witnessed “Rotschi” suffer one of the most bitter defeats of his career. Robert considered himself to be bad luck since then. His son finally convinced him to come. “Forget it! If I lose, then it certainly won’t be because of you,” Roger told him.
Robert Federer followed his son’s first two Wimbledon victories at home in Switzerland. When British reporters caught up with him afterwards, he explained that somebody had to look after the family cat. In 2005, he decided to come to Wimbledon from the beginning as a test. Most British reporters sitting only a few meters away from him in the Centre Court stands did not recognize him behind his sun glasses. The Sun actually ran a story about him, but the man in the photo associated with the story was not even him, but Federer’s physiotherapist Pavel Kovac.
Robert Federer was still nervous during the rain delay, even if his son’s two-sets-to-love lead calmed his nerves. “Even the points that Roger loses he plays well,” he said during the intermission. “I’ve always told him that he has to play aggressively and follow through with his strokes—anything else won’t work.”
Neither the short break—nor the supposed “jinx” presence of his father—could prevent Federer from winning his third Wimbledon title. After 101 minutes of play, an ace sealed his 6-2, 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory. He fell to the ground and, as before, the tears flowed. Federer became the eighth man in history—and only the third player since World War II—to win three-straight Wimbledon singles titles. The other two to turn the “hat trick” in the last 50 years were Björn Borg and Pete Sampras, but Federer resisted the comparisons. After all, the Swede won Wimbledon five straight years and Sampras won seven times in eight years. What Federer didn’t say and perhaps wasn’t even aware of was the fact that his achievement in winning his three Wimbledon titles was, in fact, more dominant than the first three titles won by both Borg and Sampras. Borg gave up nine sets in the process while Sampras surrendered 11 sets. Federer, by contrast, lost only four sets.
Federer was at a loss for words for his near perfect performance in the final. “I really played a fantastic match—one of my best in my life,” he said. “I was playing flawless. Everything was working.”
Of the 35 grass court tennis matches Andy Roddick played over the last three years, he only lost on three occasions. All three losses were to Roger Federer. “His performance this year was clearly better than last year’s,” said Roddick after his third-straight Wimbledon loss to Federer. “If I had played as well as today last year I probably would have won.”
For a third year in a row Federer was the indeed the answer to the question “Guess Who is Coming To Dinner?” His guests for the Wimbledon Champions Dinner were Tony Roche and Robert Federer. Both men beamed with pride. The Wimbledon victory was very important to them as well.
“To me, Wimbledon is the greatest tournament in the world,” said Roche, happy that he stayed in Europe with Federer for the grass season. “Playing against such a great opponent as Roddick in a Wimbledon final and playing at the level that he did—it can’t get any better than that. On a scale from one to 10, that was a 10.”
The Wimbledon champion was glad that his father was able to be with him at this special moment.
“He still gets upset if I miss a backhand or a forehand,” he said to journalists the morning after his victory. “But I’ve learned to deal with this in the meantime because I know that he doesn’t know as much about tennis as I used to think.”
2007 Australian Open – Federer def. Roddick 6-4, 6-0, 6-2
Spurred by new coach Jimmy Connors, Roddick’s career was back on the up-swing. In addition to his runner-up showing at the US Open, Roddick won the Tennis Masters Series event in Cincinnati and after his strong performances against Federer in the US Open final and Shanghai, as well as his exhibition victory over the Swiss at the Kooyong Classic, many speculated that Roddick was on Federer’s heels. The hype increased when the two faced each other again in the Australian Open semifinals. Roddick lost 12 of the 13 encounters with Federer but the longer this losing streak continued, the greater the likelihood that Federer would eventually stumble and lose to Roddick. In what many people predicted would be an upset victory for Roddick turned into one of the bitterest days of the American’s tennis career. Federer pulled off a masterpiece—one of the best matches of his career. He trailed 3-4 in the first set and then rolled off 15 of the next 17 games and won the semifinal match 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 in 83 minutes. “It was almost surreal,” Federer said. “I’m shocked myself at how well I played.” The statistics were incredibly lopsided as Federer hit as many winners in the match as Roddick won points.
Federer hit 45 winners to Roddick’s 11, while he won 83 points to Roddick’s 45. Federer also out-aced Roddick 10 to four, never lost his serve, and converted all seven break-point chances on Roddick’s serve. At one point, Federer won 12 straight games to take a 3-0 lead in the third set. The signature shot in the match came on the opening point of the fourth game of the second set. Roddick unleashed a fierce forehand from short range that landed close to the baseline. Rather than getting out of the way of the rocket forehand, Federer leaned left into the ball and hit a reflex backhand half-volley that traveled cross-court for a winner.
“Darling, you are a maniac,” Mirka told Federer after returning from his day’s work to the locker room. Two-time Grand Slam winner Rod Laver, who witnessed the flawless display of tennis, also showed up in the locker room and congratulated the victor. “Roger played fantastic,” said Laver. “He used all the strokes there were and Andy was a little frustrated. The only thing you could do is go to the net, shake hands and say, ‘That was too good.’”
Roddick’s post-match press conference was one of the most difficult of his career, but the American took the defeat like a man and was at least able to treat the humbling defeat with some humor. “It was frustrating. You know, it was miserable. It sucked. It was terrible. Besides that, it was fine,” he said. Federer, he said, deserved all the praise that was being bestowed on him.