The Five Greatest Roger Federer Wimbledon Matches

Roger Federer (Getty Images)

Roger Federer is arguably the greatest tennis player who ever played the game, and at the age of 33, the 17-times Grand Slam champion and world number two is back at Wimbledon looking for his eighth title at SW19. It's a joy to look back at his career, and we thought you'd like a reminder of his greatest-ever Wimbledon matches.

2001: Federer Beats Sampras

Pete Sampras had been at the top of the men's game for a decade when he met the young Swiss in the fourth round at Wimbledon 2001. Though Federer had been picking up some heat as one of a group of emerging youngsters, Sampras, to his fans, was seen as the king of grass-court tennis, a serve-volleyer in a game that was becoming increasingly powerful, and a totally unflappable, easy-going player.

What followed was, at the time, one of the greatest shocks at Wimbledon, as Sampras, admittedly not quite the force who had, at that point, already won 13 of his 14 Grand Slams, went about his almost-perfect routine, but found his every groundstroke and volley matched by Federer at the other end. The magnanimous Sampras openly admits that Federer is the "greatest."

2003: The First Title

Wimbledon would have to wait another two years after that seismic victory to see Federer claim the Men's Singles title on Centre Court for the first time. First Goran Ivanisevic took his only Wimbledon title in 2001, having entered as a wild card, then Lleyton Hewitt won in what many assumed would be the first victory of many. Few suspected Federer would tie down the Wimbledon title as assiduously as his hair of the time.

Looking back at Federer's "ponytail years", what is extraordinary is how little effort the great man appears to be making - he rarely seems to be running, or working hard, and yet he is always in position for the shots when they come to him. That superhuman level of anticipation is one of the reasons for Federer's success; like a chess player, he is able to view the game several moves ahead.

Mark Philippoussis, the big-serving, tall Australian who was consistently in the ATP top ten in the late 1990s and early 2000s, must have been aware he was taking on a technically-superior player, as he tried to counter with out-and-out power, in an attempt to keep points as short as possible. However he was taken apart in straight sets.

2007: Five in a Row

Federer's true golden period was in the mid-2000s, when it seemed almost impossible to defeat him in a Grand Slam Final. Unless, that is, you were Rafael Nadal in the French Open. The Spanish maestro seemed the Agassi to Federer's Sampras - all high-energy running, maximum-attack double-handed backhands and a dominant, alpha-male, baseline game that made up for a perfunctory net game.

Nadal had beaten Federer three times in successive French Open finals when they reached Wimbledon in 2007, and although the Swiss had won their men's final in 2006, it seemed like a matter of record that Nadal was inching closer to beating him on grass.

This five-set Federer victory, which had some epic twists including a very difficult fourth set for Federer, was also a victory for defiance, with the older man refusing to yield. At the time, with tennis players routinely retiring at 30, some speculated that Nadal would depose Federer as the game's leading figure. Few suspected that both players would still be battling it out, and still in the world top ten, in 2015.

2008: The Crown Moves On

Nadal HAD to win it in 2008, surely? This was not a sports betting enthusiast talking, more people accepting Nadal was, in 2008, the pre-eminent talent in world tennis, and practically unplayable on his day. Almost inevitably, the number-one and number-two seeds met in the final.

What was to follow stunned even seasoned tennis fans. Like 2007, it was a five-setter, but this match holds a special place in the hearts of Wimbledon-watchers because of the way, like Rocky Balboa, Federer looked out on the canvas after two bruising sets, won by Nadal 6-4, but came back into the match. No player in the open era has ever won a Wimbledon final from two sets down, but Federer fans began to believe after he won the third and fourth by tiebreaks.

The fifth set saw both men, with their polar-opposite games, matching each other for the perfection of their shot selection. This match, as exception as it is, is also the perfect riposte to anyone who argues tennis no longer contains long rallies; there were many of them. Nadal eventually won 9-7, but even in defeat, this is not just his and Federer's greatest match, but possibly the greatest in all tennis.

2009: Roddick More than a Glorious Loser

Federer, by 2009, had won five Wimbledon men's singles titles, two of them against the American Andy Roddick. Like Philippoussis, Roddick was a product of an era when the serve was seen as the most important part of tennis, his thunderous delivery a regular match-winner, his easy, intelligent wit a winner of many fans.

However, many had dismissed Roddick as a chat-show personality who would never step up to take on the top players; Federer, Nadal and the up-and-coming Novak Djokovic all seemed to have superior technique to Roddick's increasingly-outdated bludgeoning game.

2009 was a sad tournament, as the reigning champion, Nadal, was unable to defend his title. Federer had just beaten his rival in the French Open final - the only time he would manage this - and the Catalan admitted he had tendinitis in both knees and would have to drop out of Wimbledon.

Few suspected Roddick would put on such a fine show against Federer, but this 2009 final was another clash of differing techniques, with Roddick at one point having two set points to take the second set, but Federer winning it on a tiebreak and showing guts as well as finesse. Roddick came back one more time, taking the fourth set 6-3, and then it was to one of the longest-ever Grand Slam fifth sets - Roddick not yielding until the scores hit 16-14. An unexpectedly superb match.