Roddick becomes nowhere man against the Swiss pass master

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The Independent Online

In 1892, Pim - no relation to the landlord who invented the health tonic which is now synonymous with the world's most famous tennis tournament - lost in the final for the second successive year to Wilfred Baddeley, a fellow Briton, who must have fancied his chances of dominating for years to come. The two men duly met in the final the following year, but this time Pim turned the tables - a feat which he went on to repeat 12 months later.

Roddick needs any straw he can clutch, for the 22-year-old American is in danger of being remembered as a man who had the misfortune to be born within 12 months of one of the greatest players in the history of the game.

It is now nearly two years since Roddick won his first Grand Slam title, the US Open, and he has yet to win a second. Almost everywhere he turns - and especially here at Wimbledon - Federer is in his way.

How good is Roddick? While he has struggled to make his mark on slower courts, he has won a remarkable 32 of his past 35 games on grass. His only defeats were here at the hands of Federer in the 2003 semi-final and in the 2004 and 2005 finals.

It was hard to find fault with the American's performance yesterday. He tried staying on the baseline, serving and volleying, even chipping and charging on Federer's serve.

The power and precision of the Swiss champion's baseline play and his seemingly effortless movement meant that Roddick's best chance lay in getting to the net, but time and time again Federer passed him down both flanks.

"I did everything I could," Roddick said. "I tried going to his forehand and coming in - he passed me. I tried going to his backhand and coming in - he passed me. I tried staying back - he figured out a way to pass me, even though I was on the baseline. He passed me with a little backhand cross-court about 68 times. On break point in the third set I covered that shot. I said, 'OK, I'm going to run cross-court'. I covered it, but I was at full stretch and I didn't get to it.

"There was another point, at 30-30 on his serve, when I hit about as good a return as I could, up the line. I hit it really hard, but he got there. I came in and took a full swing at a forehand cross-court, but he was there and just put it past me.

"I don't know if I could have hit two better shots. It deflates you. You think, 'OK, if I'm playing points like that maybe I have to try to do something better'. But I don't know if I can.

"He played head and shoulders above the way he played last year. I probably played a more complete match this year. Last year I played well in spurts, but I was really hit-and-miss. If I played last year the way I did this year I'd probably have won."

Might Federer be the best player in the history of tennis? "You're not stretching far to make that argument. If he keeps up this level, then I think so."

Roddick, to his credit, does not regret having to play in the Federer era.

"I'm just going to continue to work hard: I'm not going to sit around and sulk," the American said. "You just have to sit back and say 'too good' sometimes. And hope he gets bored or something."

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