Federer served a career-high 50 aces and overcame the resilient American 5-7, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 16-14 to break the record of major titles he shared with Pete Sampras and enhance his reputation as perhaps the greatest player in history.
The match finally ended after 4 hours, 16 minutes when Federer broke for the first time all day, with Roddick missing a forehand.
Federer jumped high in celebration, punched the air and whacked the net with his racket. Roddick tossed his racket to the side and the two men shared a hug at the net. Federer held up the trophy, kissed it and brought it close to his chest.
Watching from the front row of the Royal Box was Sampras, a seven-time Wimbledon champion who flew in from California for his first appearance at the All England Club since playing on this court for the last time in 2002. Also on hand were Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver.
"It's not really one of those goals you set as a little boy, but man, it's been quite a career and quite a month," Federer said. "It feels amazing, but this is not why I'm playing tennis to break all sort of different records. But it's definitely one of the greatest ones to have."
Turning to Sampras, Federer said: "Thanks very much for coming. I know it's a long way, but you're a member, man, we like to see you here. It's such a pleasure to play in front of such greats legends."
Roddick said: "Sorry, Pete, I tried to hold him off."
The historic impact of the match hit home when Sampras arrived after the third game of the first set. Accompanied by his wife, Bridgette Wilson, he sat next to Spanish great Manolo Santana and a few seats from Laver and Borg. He wore sunglasses, a gray suit and light blue shirt and tie.
Sampras considers Federer the greatest ever.
"I have to give it to him," he said. "The critics say Laver, and (Rafael) Nadal has beaten him a few times at majors. He's won all the majors, he's won 15 now, he's going to win a few more here. So in my book he is."
"He's a stud," Sampras added. "He's only 27. He'll contend here for many years, and the U.S. Open, and all the majors. If he just keeps it going and stays healthy, he could go to 18, 19, potentially.The guy, he's a legend. Now he's an icon."
Federer reclaimed the No. 1 ranking he lost last year to Nadal, the man who beat him in the epic 2008 final but missed this year's tournament because of knee problems.
"I'm aware that Rafa didn't play here," Federer said. "Injuries are part of the game, unfortunately, but I'm happy I became No. 1 in the world by winning this title because this is the biggest one there is out there. I love playing here."
Federer is third player in history to win six Wimbledon championships Sampras and William Renshaw each won seven.
It was the longest men's Grand Slam final in history at 77 games breaking the previous record of 71 from 1927 in Australia. It was also the longest fifth set in a men's Grand Slam final in history, surpassing the 20 games from 1927 in France.
"It was a crazy match with an unbelievable end and my head's still spinning," Federer said. "But it's an unbelievable moment in my career."
The statistics were eye-catching: Federer's 50 aces were one short of the Wimbledon record held by Ivo Karlovic. Federer had an astounding total of 107 winners, compared with 38 unforced errors. Roddick had 27 aces, 74 winners and 33 unforced mistakes.
Playing in his record 20th Grand Slam final and sixth in a row overall, Federer beat Roddick for the third time in the Wimbledon championship match, adding to his victories in 2004 and '05. He extended his overall mastery over the American to 19-2, including 8-0 at Grand Slams.
Some people were writing off Federer after he lost to Nadal in the Australian Open final and broke down in tears during the trophy ceremony. Federer struggled early in the season before winning the French Open for the first time to complete a career Grand Slam.
On Sunday, he became the third man in 40 years to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year, joining Borg and Nadal.
"This year is crazy," Federer said. "Things didn't look so good when I lost in the final of the Australian Open, which was still just an unbelievable result. But to come through and battle back and win Paris and now Wimbledon back-to-back, something Bjorn did a couple of times, it's amazing."