Supreme Federer targets Sampras record

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Roger Federer wrapped up his fifth successive Wimbledon title and backed himself to pass Pete Sampras’s record of seven All England Club titles and all-time mark of 14 Grand Slams.
The world number one survived his greatest test as Wimbledon champion when he beat his only serious rival Rafael Nadal 7-6 (97), 4-6, 7-6 (73), 2-6, 6-2 in the third longest final of all time here.
It also meant he equalled the legendary Bjorn Borg’s mark of five successive Wimbledon crowns.
“Pete Sampras is maybe the greatest player we’ve ever had. So to come out and break his record, it’s not the easiest thing,” said Federer who at just 25 has plenty of time on his side.
“It takes me five Wimbledons and three Australian Opens and three US Opens to just get close to him. So it just shows you what a great player he was. “I don’t know how much longer I can keep it up, but I definitely feel like I’m mentally and physically still fit to go on for many more years to come. But that’s not going to make you win trophies. You’ve got to give yourself occasions and possibilities.
“That’s what I’ve been able to do. I’d love to equal his record, let’s put it that way first. To be on the same level as Pete Sampras, my former hero is already very nice, but I’m not there yet.”
Nadal, who for the second successive year lost to Federer at Wimbledon four weeks after beating his great rival at the French Open, has no doubt that the world number one is the best player of all time.
“He has 11 Grand Slams and he is very close to 14 but whether he wins 14, 16 or even 13, his tennis level is the best in history,” said Nadal.
The Spaniard, who will return to the more familiar clay of Stuttgart next week before heading for the American hard court season, still boasts a better career record of eight wins against five defeats with Federer but refuses to even consider himself as an equal
“I’m a better player than last year but you cannot compare me to Roger. I have three Grand Slams, he has 11. But I am young and I will keep practising and trying to improve.”
Despite the plaudits heading his way, Federer said he will take many memories from 2007 Wimbledon, the best of which was seeing Borg on hand to witness his achievement.
The great Swede is a confirmed fan of the Swiss star and his visit to the All England Club this year was just his second since he walked away from the sport in 1981.
“It’s very special when greats come and watch you,” said Federer.
“I got very emotional in Australia last year when I won. Rod Laver gave me the trophy. Only really then it sunk in that he was there.
“This was different. I didn’t expect Bjorn to come down and give me the trophy, but I saw him up in the stands. Maybe it made me a bit more proud of myself.”
Federer was in tears as he collapsed to the ground to celebrate his latest achievement but he knows that Nadal, four years younger, is improving year by year.
The Spaniard also proved on Sunday that he got closer to dethroning Federer as Wimbledon champion than the Swiss did to taking his French Open title which he has held for the last three years.
“He’s playing phenomenal tennis,” said Federer. “He’s definitely improved yet again. He had more of a game plan this year than he had last year. I think last year he came out, nothing to lose, kind of hit hard but didn’t know why. “This year around, he’s changed his game a little bit. Plays maybe a bit more aggressive, knows the game of grass much better. That’s why I think he’s not only just a good clay courter, he’s a good all-around player.
“He deserves a title here. He’s not getting any worse. It was a tough match and I have the highest respect for him.”
Federer now turns his attentions to defending his US Open title and he admits he still has plenty of ambitions left in the sport.
But with 11 Grand Slams under his belt, he also knows the pressure is off his shoulders as he remains comfortably the best player in the world.
“I haven’t won Paris, I haven’t won the Davis Cup, the Olympic Games,” he said.
“I just want to enjoy tennis and not just put myself under pressure all the time. I’m just happy with such a great run, especially at Wimbledon, the most important tournament of my life. I’m loving every moment of it.”

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2007