Roger Federer at Wimbledon: When ‘King Roger' ruled
Roger Federer loves Wimbledon and Wimbledon loves him right back.
To be fair, give Roger Federer any surface or tennis event, he rarely fails to serve up a masterclass - as his record-breaking haul of 20 Grand Slam titles proves.
But watching the Swiss maestro gliding around the grass courts at the Wimbledon Championships is something truly magical. The numbers, too, testify.
Federer has won a whopping eight Wimbledon titles, making him the most successful men’s singles player of the Open era at the oldest Grand Slam of them all.
Wimbledon was always my favourite tournament, and will always be my favourite tournament - Roger Federer
Here’s a look back at how Roger Federer went on to record the most Wimbledon titles.
2003 Wimbledon – Roger Federer’s first Grand Slam title
To pinpoint where exactly Roger Federer’s journey to becoming a legend began, the 2003 Wimbledon would be a good place to start.
The edition was Federer’s fifth Wimbledon and till then, the young Swiss had only managed to get past the first round just once.
However, an incredible five-set victory to knock out reigning champion and the erstwhile ‘King of Wimbledon’ Pete Sampras - Federer’s childhood hero - from the 2001 tournament’s fourth round had already put him on the map. Sampras was on a 31-match win streak at the time.
The promise finally culminated into a title win in 2003, as Roger Federer, then barely 22, clinched his very first Grand Slam after stunning Australia’s Mark Philippoussis 7–6(5), 6–2, 7–6(3) in the men’s singles final
Roger Federer, the 1998 junior Wimbledon champion, also became the first player since Stefan Edberg in 1990 to win both the junior and pro gentlemen Wimbledon singles titles.
“It was my most important match in my life. I knew I had the game,” an emotional Federer, the first Swiss Wimbledon champion of the Open Era, said in his famous victory speech.
2004 Wimbledon – the Andy Roddick test
Having won the Australian Open earlier that year, Roger Federer, the top seed at Wimbledon 2004, set up a final clash against second-seed Andy Roddick.
Besides being a 1vs2 final, the match had big significance in the tennis world. At the time, barely a year before Rafael Nadal burst onto the scene at the 2005 French Open, Roddick’s power game was considered by many as the perfect counter to Federer’s craft.
Up against one of the tennis players touted to be the biggest obstacle to his dominance over the tennis court, Roger Federer turned up in style. Despite losing the first set, the Swiss icon rallied to take the tightly-contested match and the title 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(3), 6-4.
I threw the kitchen sink at him but he went to the bathroom and got his tub” - Andy Roddick
2005 Wimbledon – a rematch and a hat-trick
Federer and Roddick would go on to meet again in the 2005 Wimbledon final and this time, the Swiss was much more assertive than his last outing against the US ace.
In what was a near-flawless performance on the grand stage, Federer cruised to 6-2, 7-6(2), 6-4 victory over Roddick to clinch his third consecutive Wimbledon title.
Perhaps one of the most interesting stats from the time was Roddick’s record on grass.
Since 2002 till then, the American had lost only three matches on grass courts and all were against Federer at the All England Club centre-court in Wimbledon – the 2003 semi-final and the 2004 and 2005 finals.
After the loss, Roddick quipped, “Maybe I’ll punch him next time.”
2006 Wimbledon – tussle with Rafael Nadal
With Rafael Nadal starting to make waves on the big stage, the focus promptly shifted from the Federer-Roddick rivalry to Federer vs Nadal.
In the first big final between the two at the French Open 2006, the Spanish youngster came out on top despite losing the first set. Months later, a much-awaited rematch, this time on grass at the Wimbledon final, had the tennis world buzzing.
Heading into the match, Nadal had beaten Federer in six of their previous seven meetings but all had come either on clay or hard courts. Nadal knew getting the better of the Swiss legend on grass will be a different ordeal.
Roger Federer proved him right, beating Nadal 6-0, 7-6(5), 6-7(2), 6-3 in one of the several Federer-Nadal classics.
Though Federer won, he was tested thoroughly by Nadal and the result could have turned out very differently if the Spaniard had held his serve to win the second set with the score 5-4 in his favour.
“It was awfully tight and I was getting awfully nervous in the end too,” Federer admitted.
2007 Wimbledon – equalling Björn Borg’s record
As the Federer-Nadal rivalry only intensified over the next few months, the two squared off again in the 2007 Wimbledon final.
Nadal pushed Federer to the brink again, even harder than the previous year, in the grand finale.
In what was a marathon five-setter, Roger Federer eventually emerged victorious by a 7-6(7), 4-6, 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-2 scoreline, with his experience proving to be the difference at the end.
However, with it, Federer equalled the legendary Björn Borg’s Open Era record of five consecutive Wimbledon titles. The Swede maestro, incidentally, was in attendance at the Royal Box that day.
William Renshaw holds the pre-Open Era record of six consecutive Wimbledon titles (1881 to 1886).
This was also the only time Roger Federer’s Wimbledon match had been pushed to five sets. The first was in 2001 against Sampras - a match where Federer, quite ironically, ended the American legend’s bid to win his fifth straight Wimbledon title.
A year later, however, Rafael Nadal went on to break Roger Federer’s Wimbledon streak at the 2008 final. The match is still considered by many tennis legends as one of the greatest matches ever.
2009 Wimbledon – back against an old foe
With defending champion Nadal pulling out of the 2009 Wimbledon edition, Roger Federer had to wait for his redemption against the Spaniard but found himself up against an old rival in Andy Roddick in the final.
Having completed his career Grand Slam with his first French Open win a few months earlier, Federer went on to clinch his sixth Wimbledon title after a gruelling test against Roddick.
The Swiss ace outlasted Roddick 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 16-14 in a war of attrition to regain his lost crown.
The match-winning performance also brought Roger Federer level with Pete Sampras’ record of 15 Grand Slam titles.
2012 Wimbledon – proving doubters wrong
After winning the 2010 Australian Open, Roger Federer endured a slump in form. In 2011, the Swiss tennis player failed to win a single Grand Slam – a phenomenon which had never happened since his maiden Slam triumph in 2003.
Having crossed 30 in 2011, there were also concerns that the Swiss icon’s time was over and the ascent of Novak Djokovic during that period only added to the narrative.
Roger Federer, however, was far from done and what better stage than his favourite Wimbledon to prove his doubters wrong?
In 2012, Federer beat Djokovic in the semi-finals to set up a final clash with Andy Murray. The Brit won the first set, but Roger Federer came back swinging to win the match 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.
The win in 2012 also meant he was tied with Sampras and Renshaw (pre-Open era) for the most Wimbledon titles in history with seven a-piece. But there was more to come from Roger.
2017 Wimbledon – the undisputed King of Wimbledon
Claiming exclusive rights to the ‘King’, however, took Federer five more years. Having been denied by Djokovic in the 2014 and 2015 finals, Federer was made to wait for the coveted eighth title.
But it was only a matter of time and the moment of truth knocked on July 16, 2017, and it seemed destiny had accounted for it.
Federer cruised through to the decider without dropping a single set and capped it off with a 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 straight-set win over Croatia’s Marin Cilic to kiss the golden trophy for a record eighth time.
“I had some tough ones, losing to Novak. I kept on believing and dreaming and here I am today with the eighth. It’s fantastic. It’s such a special court.”
Besides his eight titles at Wimbledon, Roger Federer has reached the final on four other occasions – 2008 against Nadal and 2014, 2015 and 2019 against Djokovic.
In hindsight, each of these went right down to the wire and could have swayed the other way very easily.