Saturday, 7 July 2012
Roger Federer is poised to crown his colossal career with arguably his greatest triumph and a spectacular ascent back to world No.1.
Victory over home hero Andy Murray in Sunday's Wimbledon final would deliver the Swiss wonder with so much more than a record-equalling seventh title at the All England Club.
Regaining the top ranking a month shy of his 31st birthday and amidst the peak of the grand careers of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, his two esteemed rivals, would elevate Federer to the pantheon of legends in any sporting endeavour.
"There's a lot on the line for me. I'm not denying that," Federer said after defeating Djokovic, the world No.1 and defending champion, 6-3 3-6 6-4 6-3 in a virtuoso semi-final display.
"I have a lot of pressure as well. I hope I can keep my nerves. I'm sure I can."
A 17th career major would vault Federer three clear of Pete Sampras on the all-time grand slam leaderboard, match the American's magnificent seven at Wimbledon and equal Sampras's record 286 total weeks as world No.1.
Federer has long acknowledged Sampras as an idol while growing up in Switzerland.
"Everybody knows what a hero he is to me and how much I admire what he's been able to achieve in tennis.
"I don't think he ever lost a grand slam final here at Wimbledon. He won seven out of seven, which is just incredible, particularly in the times he played against all these big servers, when things were a bit more unpredictable, let's say.
"So I'm very proud to have a shot of equalling Pete."
The respect is mutual.
"I've gotten used to Roger breaking my records," Sampras told the Associated Press.
While other great champions would have ridden off in the sunset, blissfully content with such a success-laden career, the incomparable Federer, a happily married father of two, is now emulating Sampras in the twilight of his own career.
"I particularly remember obviously the end of his career because before that I was honestly following more Becker and Edberg," Federer said.
"But I admired how he stuck around, how he tried to win maybe one more, maybe two more (slams).
"It was an inspiration for sure as well to see somebody while I was coming up dominating the game and breaking the all-time grand slam record.
"I'm sure that inspired me in some ways."
Rightfully insisting he had nothing left to prove, Federer nonetheless revealed how his quarter-final loss last year from two sets ahead against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - Murray's vanquished semi-final opponent on Friday - was another big spur behind his stunning post-30 renaissance.
"It was a hard one to sort of accept to lose," Federer said.
"You have to wait another year for your chance and now I am finally back in that final."
Since his other shattering loss from two sets up - and two match points in the fifth - against Djokovic in last year's US Open semi-finals, Federer has chalked up a tour-best 62 wins from 68 outings and seven titles, including a record sixth season-ending championship.
"I'm maybe the guy with most matches played this year, so it's not like I've been on the sideline," he said.
"Still, it's always nice beating someone like Novak, who has done so well here last year, the last couple of years.
"We've never played on grass. It was obviously a big occasion. These matches only help my confidence. I hope I can use it then for the finals."
His remarkable feat in reaching an unprecedented eighth Wimbledon final surpasses the seven of Sampras, Boris Becker and Britain's 1908 London Olympics dual gold medallist Arthur Gore.
Trying to land his first major since the 2010 Australian Open, it will also be Federer's record-extending 24th grand slam final appearance.