7:28PM Booming Roddick brings out best in great Federer

By Art Spander
The Sports Xchange/

WIMBLEDON, England -- The match that seemed endless ended too soon for Andy Roddick. If the man who beat him in one of the greatest Wimbledon men's finals isn't the finest tennis player in history, he'll do for a long while.

Roger Federer proved he has courage and staying power, as well as some of the finest strokes ever, by hanging on to defeat Roddick 5-7, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 16-14 on a Sunday when Centre Court couldn't take much more suspense.

The victory was Federer's 15th in a Grand Slam, the game's Big Four, separating him from Pete Sampras, with whom he had been tied and who, after an overnight flight from Los Angeles, was in the stands to watch his record fall.

"Thanks for coming, Pete," said Federer, the 27-year-old Swiss. "It's such a pleasure to do it in front of such great legends."

Besides Sampras, the famed royal box included Bjorn Borg, Manolo Santana, Ilie Nastase and Rod Laver, champions all who had come to see whether Federer could produce on demand.

And despite Roddick -- the American doomed to become the other man in these dramas, having now lost to Federer three times in a Wimbledon final -- Roger managed to do what was needed.

"My head is still spinning," Federer said after a match that, because there are no tiebreakers in the fifth set at Wimbledon, went 4 hours, 18 minutes.

The 16-14 set, which required 1 hour, 35 minutes, is said to be the longest fifth in a Slam, bypassing the 11-9 in the 1927 French Open, when Rene LaCoste defeated Bill Tilden. Talk about legends.

Roddick will not be spoken of with those two, or with Federer, who beat him for the 19th time in 21 meetings, eight of those in Slams, four at Wimbledon.

Rather, he will be discussed as the unfortunate individual who came along at the wrong time, the guy who did everything possible except overtake Federer.

It seemed he might in this third consecutive Wimbledon final to go five sets -- Rafael Nadal beat Federer last year -- Roddick let his chances get away. Or maybe Federer, as winners do, grabbed them.

Asked if he lost to the world's greatest tennis player, Roddick sighed, "Yeah."

In the second set, Roddick led Federer 6-2 in the tiebreak and at 6-5 had a volley to win the set. But the shot was wide, and Federer, with six consecutive points, went on to even the match at one set apiece.

"There was a pretty significant wind behind him," Roddick said of the shot, which went wide. "When he first hit it, I thought I wasn't going to play it. Last minute, it looked like it started dropping. I couldn't get my racket around on it."

Federer ended up winning the tiebreak 8-6 and in time he would win his sixth Wimbledon.

There was no falling on his knees this time. Rather, when Roddick shanked the final shot, Federer leaped like some NBA player about to hit a dunk shot.

"I'm sorry, Pete," Roddick said, addressing Sampras with his typical flippancy. "I tried to hold him off. But it was a pleasure playing here today. Pete, Manolo, I still hope someday my name will be up there with theirs as a winner of this tournament.

"But I just want to say congratulations to Roger. He is a true champion and deserves everything he gets."

In the great dream here, the men's final of the All England Lawn Tennis Championships would have been between Federer and the Scot, Andy Murray. In anticipation, some people paid $2,000 to $3,000 for tickets.

Maybe the Brits didn't get what they wanted, but you can get what you need, as the Rolling Stones sing -- and you can't get much more English than they are. What tennis always needs is a final full of drama, a final in which every point is critical.

That's what happened Sunday.

Roddick used more than his powerful serve -- his fastest was 143 mph -- to stay even with Federer. He wasn't broken once until the very last point of the match, holding serve the first 37 times. But Federer won the tiebreakers and eventually the match and the title.

In the fifth set, when the score got to 14-13, it seemed as if somebody had missed an extra point rather than a first serve.

In somewhat of a reversal of expectations, Roddick was strong in rallies, Federer on serves.

"He served great," Roddick said. "If he hadn't served as well, I'd probably be sitting here in a better mood." Federer had 50 aces, Roddick only 27.

When asked what makes Federer what he is, Roddick shrugged. "I don't know where to start," he said. "He makes it real tough. He was having trouble picking up my serve today for the first time ever. He just stayed the course.

"You didn't even get the sense he was really frustrated. He gets a lot of credit for a lot of things, but not how many matches he digs deep and toughs it out. He doesn't get a lot of credit for that because it looks easy for him a lot of times."

It wasn't easy. "This could have gone on two more hours," said Federer. He already was wearing a warmup jacket with a golden "15" on the back.

That puts him one ahead of Sampras, of course, and 14 ahead of Roddick, whose only Slam victory came in the 2003 U.S. Open. For a while, the way he played, the way he battled, there was a thought he could wrench away a second.

But when someone asked him to describe what he did, Roddick could only say, "I lost."

- - - - - -
© 2009 CBS Interactive. All rights reserved.
10:54AM Serena beats Venus for her third Wimbledon title

Special to Newsday

WIMBLEDON, England - She's a tennis player again. The champion again. The Serena Williams who wanted to dabble in television and fashion is now back on the stage she knows best and back on top. Who said there are no second acts in American lives?

Serena won the battle of the Williams sisters, the battle of Wimbledon, defeating her older sibling, Venus, 7-6 (3), 6-2, Saturday in the women's final.

This was Serena's 11th major singles title and, starting with the U.S. Open last September, her third in the last four. She's missing only the French, where she made it to the quarterfinals.Not long ago, television commentator Mary Carillo reminded her audience that an athlete, in this case Serena, would regret not taking advantage of her peak years.

But now Serena is looking forward again. At 27, she is talking about competition for another three or four years. She's back where she was in 2003 and 2004. In fact, she's better than she was in '03 and '04.

"I've played a lot this year, and I've paid the price. I've really just wanted to focus on tennis, and I've really been doing that.''

What she did to Venus, who had won 20 straight matches, 34 straight sets, two straight Wimbledons and a total of five overall, was keep her moving, slugging forehands to the corners. Then Serena won the first-set tiebreak, reminiscent of the U.S. Open quarterfinals, where she beat Venus with two tiebreakers.

"When I went out on court, I felt this was one of the few times I didn't expect to come out with the win. I felt I had nothing to lose. Then when I won that first set, I was like, 'Wow, this is great.' No matter what, I'm a set away.''

Venus again had wads of tape on her left leg to protect a knee her father, Richard, said was a problem but which she refused to discuss. "I think I played well,'' Venus said, noticeably dispirited, "but she just seemed to play better. There's no easy way of losing, especially when it's so close to the crown.''

This was the fourth time Serena had beaten Venus in a major final and the 11th time Serena had beaten Venus of the 21 matches they have played overall.

"In the tiebreak,'' Venus said, "I would play a good shot, and she'd just hit a winner off of it or put me in a position where she could hit another winner.''

In other words, despite predictions, Serena controlled the match, not Venus, who conceded in the second set she began to rush her shots. "I think I lost it from the ground [strokes],'' was Venus' analysis.

There was a brief rain shower about an hour before the 2 p.m. (British summer time) start, but after tarps were placed on court, the sun came out, and there was no thought of utilizing the new roof.

What Venus could have utilized was that big serve, but as she mentioned a few days ago, against Serena her 127-mph serve often comes flying back.

"It feels so amazing," Serena said after being presented the trophy, called coincidentally the Venus Rosewater Dish. "I can't believe I'm holding it and Venus isn't in. She always wins.''

Serena has won three of the past four major singles titles, though when the world rankings come out tomorrow, she will be No. 2 to Dinara Safina, whom Venus destroyed in the semifinals.

"If you hold three Grand Slam titles, maybe you should be No. 1, but not on the WTA Tour, obviously," Serena said.

- - - - - -,0,2073030.story

Copyright © 2009, Newsday Inc.

4:09PM In all-Williams final, little sister has all the answers

By Art Spander
The Sports Xchange/

WIMBLEDON, England -- It was the little sister who came up big. It was Serena Williams who made the shots, made the comments and, with a T-shirt that offered both a laugh and a reference to her greatness, made everyone understand she has a sense of humor as well as a brilliant forehand.

Venus Williams was the defending champion. Venus Williams was going for her sixth Wimbledon singles title. Venus Williams was the favorite. Venus Williams, however, came in second in a two-sister battle at Centre Court.

In truth, it was less a battle than a romp. For Serena, that is, who defeated Venus 7-6 (3), 6-2 on a Saturday of great potential and disappointing outcome. Not in who won, since both the Williams are champions, but in how Serena won.

Venus was going for a third straight title. Venus had won 20 straight matches at Wimbledon, 34 straight sets. Then she lost two straight sets. In 1 hour, 28 minutes.

"She had an answer for everything," Venus said of Serena.

But we had no answers for what happened to Venus, who again wore tape to brace a left knee her absent father Richard -- he had flown home to Florida to avoid watching daughter against daughter -- said was a problem but of which Venus, stubbornly in denial, said, "I have no complaints."

She no longer has the trophy that carries her name, the Venus Rosewater Dish, given the champion. For the third time, but the first time in six years, that belongs to 27-year-old Serena, who came to the news conference in a T-shirt that read, "Are you looking at my titles?"

"Well," explained a particularly jovial Serena, in full commercial mode, "this shirt is available at Nike stores, if you guys want to go get one. I thought [Friday] night, when I was getting my stuff together, if I win, I'll wear this because I would have 11 titles and I wouldn't know if you were looking at my titles or my Gatorade bottle."

Hey, it's been a great few years. She's entitled to have some fun. Serena has won three of the last four Slams, the U.S. Open in September, Australian Open in February and now in July, Wimbledon, her 11th Slam overall.

After Thursday's semis, in which Serena saved match point against Elena Dementieva, she said, "Obviously, Venus is the favorite." And Serena conceded when she walked out on Centre Court, "This is one of the few times I didn't expect to come out with the win."

So she played a gambling style, using her big serve, ripping forehands into the corners. Never was broken. And then after winning the first set on a tiebreaker (she had beaten Venus in the U.S. Open quarters on two tiebreakers) took advantage of Venus' suddenly ineffective serve and lack of movement.

"I felt like I had nothing to lose," said Serena. "When I won that first set, I was like, 'Wow, this is great.' No matter what, I'm a set away."

They are siblings, but they are not alike. Serena shows her emotions, tells you what she's thinking. Venus is the mystery lady, revealing very little.

On the BBC telecast, Tracy Austin said Venus' second serve was "slower and predictable." In the interview room later, Venus said, "I don't agree on that; [Serena] had a hard time stepping into my second serve."

Venus did concede she played too far behind the baseline in the second set when she was broken twice, the second time on match point.

"I tried my best," said 29-year-old Venus. "She just played so well. She really lifted her game. There's no easy way of losing, especially when it's so close to the crown.

"She played great, especially in the tiebreak. I don't think I did too many things wrong in the tiebreak. Just, I would hit a good shot, and she would hit a winner off it or put me in position where she could hit another winner."

The sisters have played six times in Grand Slam finals. Serena has won four. The sisters have played 21 times overall. Serena has won 11.

Serena is No. 2 in the women's rankings, behind Dinara Safina, who was crushed 6-1, 6-0 by Venus in the Wimbledon semis. The points system is skewed, and confusing.

"I'd rather be No. 2 and hold three Grand Slams in the past year than be No. 1 and not have any," Serena insisted. Then with a bit of a needle she added, "I see myself as No. 2. That's where I am. I think Dinara did a great job to get to No. 1. She won Rome and Madrid."

A couple of years back, injuries and boredom had an effect on Serena, who didn't play a great deal and didn't do well when she was playing.

"I feel like I've played a lot this year and I've paid the price," said Serena. "For several years now, three or four years, I just really wanted to focus on tennis, and I've really been doing that. I feel like this is where I want to be, and this is my chance to capitalize on everything."

In the Wimbledon women's final of 2009, no question she certainly capitalized on her big sister.

- - - - - -

© 2009 CBS Interactive. All rights reserved.
4:34PM Roddick gains independence from doubt in banner Wimbledon for U.S.

By Art Spander
The Sports Xchange/ 

WIMBLEDON, England -- He was overlooked and underestimated. Andy Roddick was considered of another generation. Time and tennis supposedly had passed him by. "Some people," he said, "were not giving me much of chance."

But it wasn't so much what anyone gave him. It was what Roddick took. He played tennis the way Pete Sampras and the Aussies like Rod Laver used to play it, going to the net, going for the jugular. And now, in a surprise, he's going to the Wimbledon final.

The Fourth of July, the celebration of America's independence from England. It's not a holiday over here. They had hoped to make it one, for another reason.

They had hoped Andy Murray would give them Britain's first men's singles finalist in 71 years and their first men's singles champion in 73 years. But it's not to be because of Roddick.

Wave the stars and stripes. Fly the flag, as they say here.

Roddick, the 26-year-old, the over-the-hill guy, beat Murray, the Scot -- "The Hero," as the tabloid Sun called him -- 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (5) Friday in what must be considered an upset.

So Roddick gets to the final for the third time but for the first time in four years where, for better or worse on Sunday, he'll face the great Roger Federer.

Federer will be playing in the Wimbledon final a seventh straight year, which never had been accomplished -- but they've only been playing here since 1877 -- and the final of a Grand Slam event a 15th time of the last 16 opportunities. He had the expected easy time against Tommy Haas, 7-6 (3), 7-5, 6-3.

Federer has five Wimbledon titles, all in a row, 2003-07, a streak stopped last year by Rafael Nadal. One more, at Wimbledon or at the U.S. Open, wherever, and Roger, the 27-year-old Swiss, breaks the tie with Sampras and wins his record 15th Grand Slam title.

"I'm very proud of all the records I've achieved," said Federer, "because I never thought I could be successful as a kid."

Not many people, Roddick included, thought Roddick could again be successful after last year. But he joins Serena and Venus Williams, who meet in Saturday's women's final, as poignant voices of American tennis.

Three of the four singles finalists are from the U.S., and Venus and Serena will team up in the women's doubles final, also Saturday. Maybe someone besides the Russians can play the game.

When Roddick, who won the 2003 U.S. Open and then eventually lost to Federer in the '04 and '05 Wimbledon finals, was stunned by Janko Tipsarevic in the second round at Wimbledon in 2008, he wasn't sure he could play it anymore.

"Oh yeah," he answered when someone asked Roddick if he doubted he again could get as far as a Grand Slam final. "That was a hard couple of weeks."

Referring to his bride of four months, Brooklyn, then his fiancée, Roddick explained, "Brook and I had a lot of talks if I thought I could still play and at least be toward the top of the game. I definitely questioned [that]. The rest of the year I was kind of hurt."

He connected with a new coach, Larry Stefanki, who played at Cal and is married to one of the daughters of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback John Brodie. Roddick made new commitments, to diet, to work, to getting to bed early.

"I gave myself every opportunity to succeed," he said.

Murray, 22, had every opportunity to succeed this week. And the pressure of a nation desperately wanting him to succeed. "Beam Us Up, Andy," was the headline in Friday's Sun. Another, in the Times, was, "Andy is fighting for his life and will not give up."

The front pages of the dailies were all on Michael Jackson, the back pages on Andy Murray. But in the battle of the Andys -- "Andymonium," someone called it -- Roddick survived, and on match point he fell to his knees and grabbed his head.

"I didn't know," Roddick would sigh, "if I'd ever get a chance of playing for another Grand Slam title. But make no mistake, I've been a much better player than I was last year."

Against Murray, Stefanki advised Roddick, normally a baseline player, went to the net, like grasscourt players of the past.

"He came up with some good volleys," Murray said of Roddick. "I mean, he makes volleys. He normally doesn't miss a lot. You have to make [passing shots], and I didn't make as many as I needed. But he serves so well, it makes it even more important for you to serve well. If you don't do that, he's going to create chances, because he came to the net a lot today."

Federer has an 18-2 record against Roddick and has beaten him in three Grand Slam finals -- '04 and '05 here, '06 in the U.S. Open.

"I think if he serves like he did, 130 miles an hour, [a percentage] in the high 70s, 80, regardless of whether it's Roger or me or anybody else, [Roddick's] got a good chance," Murray said.

At least he has a chance. He's in the final. Not a bad couple of days for the USA.
- - - - - -
© 2009 CBS Interactive. All rights reserved.
5:33PM Venus, Serena support for each other will take Saturday off

By Art Spander
The Sports Xchange/

WIMBLEDON, England -- Still the big sister. Venus Williams made that clear. As before, she made clear how overwhelming she can be on the lawns of Wimbledon, her little Edens in the chaos of big-time tennis.

She's back, like the shark in Jaws. Venus is back, in the final once more, playing Serena Williams once more Saturday, the Fourth of July, perfect for two Americans.

Almost as perfect as Venus was in destroying the player seeded first, the player first in the women's rankings, dumbfounded Dinara Safina.

"I think," sighed Safina, "she's just too good on grass. She gave me a pretty good lesson today."

Venus needed only 51 minutes for what was less a match than a mismatch in one of Thursday's two semifinals.

Serena didn't have it quite as easy or swift. She was one shot away from losing to Elena Dementieva, who like Safina is Russian. But Dementieva couldn't make that shot, a cross-court backhand, in the 10th game of the third set, and Serena finished a 6-7, 7-5, 8-6 winner.

The shortest set in that one was only a minute less than Venus' entire match. In the end, Serena and Dementieva, who was more aggressive, hitting better forehands, but couldn't hang on, played 2 hours, 49 minutes, the longest women's semi in Wimbledon's records.

So it is Venus, trying for a sixth championship and third in a row, against Serena, who lost to her in the final last year but won a couple of Wimbledon titles herself in 2002 and 2003.

Sibling against sibling, Williams against Williams, for the fourth time in a Wimbledon final, the 21st time overall. Each has 10 victories. Each feels compassion toward the other. Each desperately wants the trophy, interestingly named the Venus Rosewater Dish.

"It is different," Venus said of playing Serena, "because I'm happy for her to be in the final, but I have to face her and defeat her. I don't necessarily want her to lose, but for sure I want me to win.

"Maybe that doesn't make sense, but when I'm playing someone else, I want them to lose. I don't like to ever see her disappointed in any way. But at the same time, I don't want to see myself disappointed."

Venus is 29 and more protective than 27-year-old Serena, who, with her Twitter and Facebook, is considerably more outspoken. Venus is cautious in her remarks. Serena can be outrageous.

"But, you know," a candid Venus said, "I need to get my titles, too. I'm still the big sister."

The first few times the Williamses met, in the U.S. Open at the beginning of the decade, at Wimbledon, there were suggestions their father Richard decided who would be the winner before they took the court.

Whether that was legitimate speculation or stupid contemplation, their early matches seemed to lack emotion.

But over the years any hesitancy has disappeared. They charge and slug and chase down balls against each other as they would against anyone else.

Venus wanted Serena to win Thursday. "It's like, if she didn't win, the dream doesn't come true that we're playing in the final."

Serena wanted Venus to win. "It was like, great going." Now they don't want the other to win.

Venus has to be favored, not only after her clubbing of Safina but because Venus has won 20 consecutive matches at Wimbledon, and 34 sets.

"I feel going into this final," said Serena, "I have nothing to lose. Obviously she's playing the best tennis at this tournament. Start with that and just keep positive."

Serena very well could have lost, maybe should have lost. She challenged a couple of calls that originally went Dementieva's way but that the instant-replay review, Hawk-Eye, verified were incorrect. By fractions of an inch.

But Serena refused to concede she was lucky. "I don't think there was too much luck involved," she said.

Not when Serena was serving. She had 20 aces.

"I definitely owe this one to my serve," she agreed.

Her usually strong forehand was nonexistent. "He didn't show up today," she cracked. "I think he went to Hawaii. But I've called him ... er, her, and asked her to come back for the final. Hopefully she'll come back."

No question Venus has come back. Someone whose English carried a strong Eastern Europe accent told Venus that the score of her match, Safina winning one pathetic game, "is very strange."

Not to Venus.

"I like the score," she said with a smile. "Be honest about that. I think the score just showed my level of play. I was just dictating every point. I felt like my performance has been building each round, better and better."

And only one person can stop her: little sister.

- - - - - -
© 2009 CBS Interactive. All rights reserved.