Editor’s Note: But for the COVID-19 pandemic, Wimbledon would now be underway. During the next two weeks ATPTour.com will look back on memorable matches and happenings at the grass-court Grand Slam. This story was originally published on 10 July 2019.
Roger Federer in 2019 became the first singles player in Grand Slam championship history to record 100 match wins at a single major. The Swiss superstar, a winner of a record eight titles at The Championships, hit the milestone after he beat Japan’s Kei Nishikori on Centre Court in the Wimbledon quarter-finals. He is now 101-13 lifetime at the grass-court major.
ATPTour.com takes a looks at 10 of his memorable match wins at Wimbledon.
Win No. 1: 2001 first round, d. Christophe Rochus (BEL) 62 63 62
Three years on from winning the junior singles and doubles titles at the All England Club, Federer finally broke his two-match losing streak in first-round matches at Wimbledon, beating the older of the two Rochus brothers, Christophe, in 66 minutes. Losing just 14 service points, World No. 15 Federer hit 18 aces. He’d previously fallen to Jiri Novak in 1999 and Yevgeny Kafelnikov in 2000.
Win No. 4: 2001 fourth round, d. Pete Sampras (USA) 76(7) 57 64 67(2) 75
Federer’s life changed on 3 July 2001 at 6:20pm, when, after almost eight years of dominance on the manicured lawns, seven-time champion Sampras left Centre Court, denied the 100th grass-court match win of his illustrious career. “I think Roger is something extra-special,” said Sampras, afterwards. Federer broke Sampras’ 29-match winning streak at Wimbledon, dating back to the 1996 quarter-final loss to Richard Krajicek, admitting, “A lot of friends had told me, ‘This year I think you can beat him.’ I’d played a great year [and]… I knew I had a chance. But it was not like 100 per cent. I mean, he’s the man on grass.” Federer, playing his ninth major championship, dropped to his knees in celebration, but would lose in four sets to Tim Henman in the quarter-finals, two days later.
Win No. 11: 2003 final, d. Mark Philippoussis (AUS) 76(5) 62 76(3)
Federer held his nerve until breaking down in tears as he captured his first major championship crown with a 7-6(5), 6-2, 7-6(3) victory over Philippoussis, who had been told two years earlier he may never play again when a serious knee injury left him in a wheelchair. “I proved it to everybody and it was a big relief because there was pressure from all sides, especially from myself, to do better in Slams,” said Federer, who had needed treatment for a back injury against Feliciano Lopez in the fourth round. “There is no guarantee of anything, but I knew I had the game and I have always believed in myself. I kept my level up here in the semi-finals [against Andy Roddick] and the final and to lift the trophy is an absolute dream.”
Win No. 39: 2007 final, d. Rafael Nadal (ESP) 76(7) 46 76(3) 26 62
The World No. 1 emulated Bjorn Borg by winning his fifth straight Wimbledon title, coming through a huge scare against Nadal in their second consecutive final at the All England Club, over three hours and 45 minutes. Nadal broke twice to force a decider, when Federer saved four break points before striking a forehand winner down the line for a 4-2 lead en route to victory. With Borg watching from the Royal Box, Federer said, “Each one is special but to play a champion like Rafa, it means a lot and equalling Bjorn’s record as well. He’s a fantastic player and he’s going to be around so much longer so I’m happy with every one I get before he takes them all! It was such a close match. I told him at the net that he deserved it as well. I’m the lucky one today.”
Win No. 50: 2009 quarter-finals, d. Ivo Karlovic (CRO) 63 76(5) 76(3)
Karlovic had held serve 80 times over four matches, but Federer broke the giant Croatian in his second service game and committed only seven unforced errors in one hour and 43 minutes. “I think especially on grass, all my strength becomes even better,” said Federer, after his 50th victory at The Championships that propelled him to his 21st straight Grand Slam championship semi-final. “I become so much more dangerous.”
Win No. 52: 2009 final, d. Andy Roddick (USA) 57 76(6) 76(5) 36 16-14
Federer bounced back from his 2008 final loss to Nadal by capturing a record-breaking 15th major championship crown 12 months on, in a tense and gruelling 16-14 fifth set victory over Andy Roddick, the player he also beat in the 2004 and 2005 Wimbledon finals. Roddick had secured the only two breaks of serve in the first four sets and the decider went with serve until the 30th game when the American, who had not converted two break point chances at 8-8, began to tire. Sampras flew in from Los Angeles to witness Federer break his major title haul. The Swiss reclaimed No. 1 in the ATP Rankings with his sixth Wimbledon crown over four hours and 15 minutes.
Win No. 53: 2010 first round, d. Alejandro Falla (COL) 57 46 64 76(1) 60
Federer avoided one of the biggest upsets in tennis history, over three hours and 18 minutes on Centre Court, recovering from 4-5 down in the fourth set, when World No. 60 Falla had served for a place in the second round. “I definitely got very lucky out there,” said Federer, who had beaten Falla 6-1, 6-2 in Halle, two weeks earlier. “I have lost many matches this year which I should have won, this is one I should have lost but I came through. But that is sometimes how grass court tennis works. It came as a bit of a shock and it’s not something I was that prepared for, but you have to draw from experience and physical strength. I live to fight another day.” Falla would later admit her got nervous when serving for the match in the fourth set. “I was thinking that I have a big opportunity to beat Federer here,” the Colombian said. “I just doubted a little bit at that moment for the first two points, and then he played good points.”
Win No. 64: 2012 third round, d. Julien Benneteau (FRA) 46 67(3) 62 76(6) 61
Federer had dropped only nine games in his first two matches, but struggled against the power of Benneteau in the first two sets and was contemplating his first third-round exit at a Grand Slam championship since 2004 Roland Garros. Federer regrouped under the Centre Court roof to force a decider, which saw No. 29 seed Benneteau receive treatment for an injury after the first game. “I did start to play better and better as the match went on, that’s kind of what I expected of myself once a set down,” said Federer, who came through the 26-minute fifth set. “That I guess comes with experience, but experience alone is not going to win you the match. I had to push deep and extremely hard, and I’m very happy with the way things sort of happened at the end.”
Win No. 93: 2017 final, d. Marin Cilic (CRO) 63 61 64
Federer became the first man to capture the Wimbledon title eight times with victory over Cilic, who struggled with a blister on his left foot and broke down in tears in the second set. In sealing his first crown at the All England Club for five years, Federer extended his record to 19 Grand Slam trophies and at 35 years of age became the oldest man in the Open Era to lift the Wimbledon trophy. Watched by his wife, Mirka, and their four children, Federer said, “I think the younger twins think this is a nice view and a nice playground – hopefully one day they’ll understand. They come for the finals. It’s a wonderful moment for the family and my team. This one is for us. Thank you to Wimbledon, thank you Switzerland.”
Win No. 100: 2019 quarter-finals, d. Kei Nishikori (JPN) 46 61 64 64
Closing in on his 38th birthday, evergreen Federer move through to his 13th Wimbledon semi-final, where he’ll play his long-time rival Nadal, in his 21st straight visit to the major in south-west London. Nishikori broke Federer in the very first game, and came close to a 4-1 advantage, before the Swiss started his comeback in the second set en route to his 100th match win at Wimbledon. Federer is now the oldest man to reach a Grand Slam championship semi-final since Jimmy Connors, aged 39 years and six days, at the 1991 US Open.