Federer's calm presence wins again

Updated: July 3, 2004, 10:06 AM ET
By Greg Garber | ESPN.com

WIMBLEDON, England -- He has quietly gone about his work here with the cool efficiency of a surgeon -- no, make that an assassin.

Roger Federer might have struggled briefly -- it is a relative term when applied to the world's best player -- but he eventually closed out Sebastien Grosjean in their suspended semifinal match. Federer actually lost another service game, his second on the fortnight, but prevailed 6-2, 6-3, 7-6 (6) to advance to Sunday's final.

The defending champion, after converting his fourth match point, is right where everyone expected him to be.

The No. 1 seed meets No. 2-seed Andy Roddick in Sunday's final, a pairing that was eagerly anticipated even before the tournament began.

"This year has been fantastic for me," said Federer, who is only 22. "It's still very difficult for me to understand why and how come that I'm so dominant this year."

Once again, Federer offered a dazzling array of angles and spins. Again, he left a string of statistical mayhem in his wake:

Federer has now won 23 consecutive matches on grass, and 59 of 63 sets.

"I don't know if everybody realizes that this is only my third Grand Slam final," he said. "I'm very thrilled. I have to say I'm very happy, even though my matches have been rather easy, so I couldn't make somersaults."

Grosjean, 26, does not have the name recognition of a Federer or a Roddick, but he is a pretty fair player -- it's just that Federer made him look sub-average. Grosjean, once ranked as high as No. 4 in the world, reached the semifinals here a year ago, losing to Mark Philippoussis.

Coming into the match, Grosjean actually held a 2-1 career advantage over the Swiss player, but all three matches came in 2001. Grosjean and Roddick were the only players not to drop a set here in their first five matches, but Grosjean did not see a top-25 player until Federer.

Federer and Grosjean began their match on Friday at four minutes past one, local time. Federer was serving for a 4-2 lead when the first installment of showers arrived. It was the 18th delay of The Championships. After two returns to Centre Court were washed out by more rain, the two players came back at suppertime. Five hours and 11 minutes after they began the match, Federer won the first set. He had broken Grosjean in the very first game, then backed it up with another break in the seventh game with a forehand cross-court winner.

Grosjean is a pleasure to watch. He is clever, stylish and animated. He is comfortable at net and his slice approach is particularly effective with the low bounces the slick grass creates. In the first game of the second set, for example, Grosjean made a ludicrous shot, picking up a forehand half-volley with studied aplomb. But more often, Federer was too strong for Grosjean. In the second game of the first set, Federer blistered a 133 mile-an-hour serve.

The second and final rain delay sent the players to the locker room for the last time with Federer leading two sets and 4-3 in the third.

Play resumed Saturday at noon and Federer looked a little sluggish. He had two match points when Grosjean was serving at 4-5, but failed to convert. The two players broke each other and proceeded to the tiebreaker.

Down 0-4 to the feisty Frenchman, Federer won four straight points and ended the match with a casual overhead.

There is an unnatural calm about Federer as he contemplates his third Grand Slam singles title in the last five played.

"Once the tournament gets under way, everything becomes very natural for me," Federer said. "Now that I again have this opportunity to win this tournament, is a very special feeling. I also get very nervous before finals.

"These are the moments, I work hard and live for."

Greg Garber is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Greg Garber

Writer, Reporter
Greg Garber joined ESPN in 1991 and provides reports for NFL Countdown and SportsCenter. He is also a regular contributor to Outside the Lines and a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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