Federer rebounds to defeat Nadal, ties records of Borg

The Swiss standout finished with a 24-1 advantage in aces and a 65-50 edge in winners.

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Locked in the toughest test of his Wimbledon reign, against his only real rival in today’s game, Roger Federer summoned the strokes and resolve that allow him to chase records set by the greats of yesteryear.

And after Federer finally overcame Rafael Nadal in a five-set epic Sunday to win his fifth consecutive championship at the All England Club and 11th Grand Slam title overall, tying Bjorn Borg on both counts, guess who was waiting to greet him in a hallway off Centre Court?

Borg himself. They smiled and embraced, then chatted briefly, a tete-a-tete between the only two men in the past century to win Wimbledon five years in a row.

Proud of himself

“To see him after the match — it was very fitting in my point of view,” Federer said. “It made me a bit more proud of myself.”

He could swell his chest all he wanted, given everything he’s accomplished, not to mention the way he beat three-time French Open champion Nadal 7-6 (7), 4-6, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-2 for his 54th straight victory on grass in a taut match filled with momentum swings and marvelous shotmaking.

Federer is No. 1, Nadal is No. 2, and they have met in four of the past six major finals. Federer won both at the All England Club. Nadal won both at Roland Garros. This was, by far, the best of the bunch.

“I win my share. He wins his. We’ve been at the top for over 100 weeks together. It is like building up to one of maybe the great rivalries,” Federer said. “We sometimes haven’t lived up to the expectations in the past ... but you can’t always play five-set thrillers, you know. I’m happy it happened today. I left as the winner. Perfect.”

He’s taken 11 of the past 17 Grand Slam titles, including three apiece at the Australian Open and U.S. Open. Now Federer’s total trails only Roy Emerson’s 12 and Pete Sampras’ 14 on the list of career Grand Slam titles.

Climb will continue

“I don’t know how much longer I can keep it up,” the 25-year-old Federer said, “but I definitely feel like I’m mentally and physically still fit to go on for many more years.”

Federer finished with a 24-1 edge in aces and a 65-50 edge in winners. Numbers hardly do justice to his excellence or elegance with a racket in hand, however.

Just when it looked as if Federer might turn the sunny afternoon into a coronation by taking a 3-0 lead, Nadal won the next three games. Just when it looked as if Nadal might be in charge, breezing through the fourth set, Federer broke twice in a row to end the match.

“I tried to play as aggressive as possible,” Nadal said.

Nadal had his chances in the final set. At 1-1, 15-40, he held two break points, but pushed a return long, then missed a forehand wide. At 2-2, 15-40, Nadal sent a return long, then Federer produced a 127 mph service winner.

Tough moment

“It was a tough moment to be in,” Federer said. “I was nervous.”

Those dangers averted, ahead 3-2 in the fifth, Federer grabbed hold of the match, getting to love-40 on Nadal’s serve. Finally, more than three full sets after the last time he had broken, Federer came through, ending a 14-stroke exchange with a forehand winner that kicked up a cloud of chalk.

Federer hit three aces in the next game to hold, then broke Nadal again. When he converted his second match point with an overhead winner, Federer dropped to his knees — the way Borg used to celebrate.

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