Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

New Iceman Cometh; Talk of Breaking Bjorn Borg's Great Winning Record on Grass Does Not Faze Roger Federer, Who Looks Every Bit as Cool as His Hero

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

New Iceman Cometh; Talk of Breaking Bjorn Borg's Great Winning Record on Grass Does Not Faze Roger Federer, Who Looks Every Bit as Cool as His Hero

Article excerpt

Byline: IAN CHADBAND

WHEN Roger Federer won the Toronto Masters last year to become the first man for nearly quarter of a century to win three successive tennis titles on three different surfaces - clay, grass and hard - he reckoned this landmark of all-court mastery felt particularly special because of who he was emulating.

"Bjorn Borg did it last and he is my hero," explained Federer. "I've met him once and I'd like to do so again.

He's a great player and a great person. This is something for the history books."

Now we are here at Wimbledon, Federer would kill for his name to again nestle alongside that of the man who, to many, remains the king of these lawns ahead of McEnroe et al. Even in absentia. For if you can top Borg at SW19, you are dealing in sporting immortality.

We never have the pleasure of seeing the reclusive Borg here. A three-times married 49-year-old, he's only come back to Wimbledon once since retirement - for the Millennium champions parade - and prefers to stay in Sweden coaching young players. Yet it feels as if he's still around, though; each time he steps out on to a grass court, Federer seems to be embodying his spirit as well as chasing it.

In today's fourth round against Juan Carlos Ferrero, the Swiss was attempting to win his 33rd straight match on grass, homing in ever closer to Borg's record of 41.

Being the modest sort, he would shrug that Borg set his record entirely at Wimbledon during his unmatched five-title run between 1976 and 1980 - until ended by the 1981 final loss to John McEnroe - while his own two-year streak featured 15 wins in the annual pre-Wimbledon tournaments at Halle, Germany.

Nonetheless, if Federer does win his third straight Wimbledon title this Sunday and enjoy a fourth consecutive warm-up triumph in Halle again next year, he will step out on Centre Court next year with a chance of overhauling one of tennis's more extraordinary landmarks with victory number 42.

If we are getting ahead of ourselves, it is only because there has been a Borg-like invulnerability about Federer whenever tested on grass courts recently.

Indeed, it says much that Saturday's four-set victory over Nicolas Kiefer was about the hardest he's been pushed in any of his 17 consecutive Wimbledon wins since losing in the 2002 first round to Mario Ancic.

Kiefer served for the fourth set before Federer, despite not having being at his best throughout the tournament, roused himself with some exquisite stuff.

Somehow, it seemed inevitable; no one has taken Federer into a fifth set during his winning sequence, such is the margin for error his superiority has offered him on this surface. Before today, he'd lost just eight sets in those 32 matches.

It was different for Borg. Apart from his first Championship triumph in the baking summer of 1976 when he became the only man in the Open era to win the title without dropping a set, his progress through those 41 matches was studded by eight five-set contests which stretched fitness and nerve to the absolute limit. …

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