Federer shines as best ever

Andy Roddick won two sets, nearly won the Wimbledon championship and no doubt won a new legion of fans in losing to Roger Federer in a titanic record-long match Sunday.

But Federer won consideration as the best all-around tennis player of all time.

He is the Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and Lance Armstrong of the racquet set.

Not just because he has now won more major tournaments (15) than Pete Sampras or anyone else in history. But also because he has won on so many different kinds of surfaces.

"Federer is the best ever not just because he has won the most (majors)," writes columnist Michael Rosenberg, "but because he has played at a consistently higher level than anybody ever, on every surface.

"Grass, hard court, clay --- it doesn't matter. They could play a Grand Slam event on ice and Federer would skate to the final weekend."

On Sunday, it became clear as to why: It's because in the dictionary, you will find Federer's picture next to the word "relentless."

Roddick, an American who never quite played to his potential before, did so on Sunday. Few gave Roddick much of a chance against Federer. But Roddick took the first set and nearly the next two, before winning the fourth set and taking Federer to the limit in a no-tiebreaker 16-14 final set. Roddick never lost a game when he was serving -- until the end.

Federer simply never blinked. He took the best that Roddick had and kept coming and kept coming and kept coming. He was relentless.

That's not just a talent, that's a trait.

There are lots of great tennis players. Some of the greats were at courtside Sunday to watch Federer go for history.

But perhaps what separates the greats from the greatest ever is an unrelenting inner drive, a fire and determination to persevere that's as constant -- as relentless -- as the sun.

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