WIMBLEDON, England — Serve after booming serve, game after nerve-racking game, Roger Federer and Andy Roddick went at each other with everything they had in Sunday's Wimbledon final.
They were each other's equal for four full sets and nearly the entire 30-game fifth set. Until Federer broke Roddick's serve for the only time and won 5-7, 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 16-14.
The epic match — the fifth set alone lasted more than 90 minutes — gave Federer his sixth Wimbledon title. Add that to five from the U.S. Open, three from the Australian Open and one from the French Open, and Federer's Grand Slam total reached 15, one more than the record held by Pete Sampras, who flew in from California to be on hand.
"He's a legend," said Sampras, who was joined in the Royal Box front row by fellow greats Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg.
"Now he's an icon."
Federer served a personal-record 50 aces in a match that took 4 hours, 16 minutes. But Roddick was, on balance, the better server, holding his serve on his first 37 games. But on the 38th …
"It was a crazy match with an unbelievable end, and my head is still spinning," Federer said.
"It's an unbelievable moment in my career."
It also was a happier ending at Wimbledon for Federer than last year, when he lost the fifth set 9-7 to Rafael Nadal in one of the greatest matches in tennis history.
"Sports, or tennis, is cruel sometimes. We know it," said Federer, 27. "I went through some five-setters in Grand Slam finals, too, and ended up losing. It's hard."
This final was a different spectacle in terms of rhythm and tactics than last year.
Federer and Roddick combined for 77 aces and 181 winners. They kept the rallies short, so the marathon moved at a much brisker pace than last year's epic, which took 4:48.
It was not until 10-10 in the fifth set that the match passed the four-hour mark. By then, Federer had already saved two break points in the 17th game: the first at 15-40 with a 118 mph first serve that Roddick could not return with his forehand; the second at 30-40 with a forehand swing-volley winner.
Those were the last break points Roddick had in the match, but this final was a long way from over, and the crowd's buzz seemed to get louder each time Roddick managed to even the score.
"You just keep going," Roddick said. "Looking back, it seems like a lot. But each time, it was just a point, and then another one and another one. I guess it added up after a while."
There was not another break point for either man until Roddick served while trailing 15-14.
At deuce, Roddick sailed a forehand long, giving Federer his seventh break point of the match. Until then, he was 0-for-6. But this also was a championship point, and Federer converted.
It ended the longest set in Wimbledon final history. Ashley Cooper beat Neale Fraser 13-11 in the fourth set in 1958, and Jaroslav Drobny beat Ken Rosewall 13-11 in the first set in 1954.
"Frustrating at times because I couldn't break Andy 'til the very, very end," said Federer, who will surpass Nadal for No. 1 in the world when the new rankings come out today. "So satisfaction is maybe bigger this time around to come through because I couldn't control the match at all."
Roddick seemed poised to take control in the second set.
After breaking Federer to win the first, Roddick went up 6-2 in the tiebreaker. He had four chances to go up 2-0. All slipped away. On the last, he wildly misplayed a backhand volley.
"At that point, like everything else, there's two options: You lay down or you keep going," said Roddick, 26. "The second option sounded better to me."
Roddick lost the third set, too, but rallied to take the fourth. Then came the fifth. Wimbledon doesn't use tiebreakers in fifth sets, and there were times it seemed Federer and Roddick would play into the night.
They almost did before Roddick fell to 0-3 in Wimbledon finals. The other two losses, in 2004 and 2005, also came to Federer, against whom he is 2-19.
"I just want to say congratulations to Roger. He's a true champion and deserves everything he gets," Roddick said on the court, holding back tears.
"I tried. Sorry, Pete."