WIMBLEDON, England — A Grand Slam title drought did end in Sunday's riveting Wimbledon men's final, only it was Roger Federer's lengthy-for-him gap rather than Britain's 76-year wait for a homegrown champion.
Making sure everyone knows he is still as capable as ever of brilliance on the court — particularly one made of grass, and with a roof overhead — Federer came back to beat Andy Murray 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 for a record-tying seventh championship at the All England Club.
"It feels nice," Federer said, clutching the gold trophy only Pete Sampras has held as many times in the modern era. (William Renshaw won seven in the 1880s, when champions got byes into the title match.)
"It's like it never left me."
The victory also increased Federer's record total to 17 major titles after being stuck on 16 for 21/2 years. And he clinched a return to the top of the ATP rankings, overtaking Novak Djokovic, after an absence of a little more than two years. Because he is guaranteed the top spot for two weeks, he will break Sampras' record of 286 weeks at No. 1.
After a record seven consecutive Wimbledon finals from 2003-09, winning the first six, Federer lost in the quarterfinals in 2010 and '11, then wasted two match points and a two-set lead against Djokovic in the U.S. Open semifinals last year, raising questions about whether he might be slipping.
"A couple tough moments for me the last couple years, I guess," Federer said. "So I really almost didn't try to picture myself with the trophy or try to think too far ahead, really."
After losing in the semifinals in each of the previous three years, Murray, from Scotland, was the first British man to reach the Wimbledon final since Bunny Austin in 1938, and he was trying to become the hosts' first male winner since Fred Perry in 1936.
But Murray, 25, dropped to 0-4 in Grand Slam finals, three against Federer. Only one other man has lost the first four major title matches of his career: Ivan Lendl, who is coaching Murray and sat in his guest box with chin planted on left palm, as expressionless as he was during his playing career.
"I'm getting closer," Murray told the crowd afterward, his voice cracking and tears flowing.
"Everybody always talks about the pressure of playing at Wimbledon, how tough it is. It's not the people watching; they make it so much easier to play. The support has been incredible, so thank you."
But there was plenty of clapping and yelling for both men, who produced high-quality play, filled with lengthy exchanges, superb shotmaking and deft volleying.
A key switch happened at 1-all in the third set, when a drizzle transformed into heavy rain, causing a 40-minute delay while the retractable roof was moved over Centre Court. The roof was installed before the 2009 tournament; this was its first use for a singles final.
Until then, Federer had won 86 points, Murray 85. Under the roof — with no wind to alter trajectories, allowing Federer to make pure, explosive contact with the ball — Federer won 65 points, Murray 52.
"When the roof was closed, (Federer) played unbelievable tennis," Murray said.
Federer turns 31 on Aug. 8 and is the first 30-something man to win Wimbledon since Arthur Ashe in 1975 at 31. The title was the 75th of his career in singles. Only Jimmy Connors (109), Lendl (94) and John McEnroe (77) have won more.
"I'm so happy I'm at the age I am right now, because I had such a great run, and I know there's still more possible," Federer said. "I wouldn't want anything to change."
Information from Infostrada Sports was used in this report.