WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Andy Roddick slumped forward in his changeover chair, hands covering his grass-stained baseball cap, stung by his third loss in a Wimbledon final, all to Roger Federer.

This one was quite unlike the others, in 2004 and 2005: This one ended 16-14 in the fifth set, a test of will as much as skill.

A chant rose from the Centre Court crowd of about 15,000 as Roddick sat there, alone in thought, moments after Federer had claimed his sixth Wimbledon title and record 15th Grand Slam championship in a 5-7, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 16-14 epic Sunday.

“Rodd-ick! Rodd-ick! Rodd-ick!”

How often does the loser of a match earn such a serenade? Hearing that chorus, Roddick rose to stand and applaud the fans.

“It showed that they appreciated, I guess, what we did out there today,” a subdued Roddick said later. “It was definitely a nice and appreciated gesture.”

Federer felt for his foe on this day.

“Sports, or tennis, is cruel sometimes,” Federer said. “We know it.”

A year ago, Roddick lost in the second round at the All England Club, prompting some soul-searching — and, eventually, revamping. He hired a new coach, Larry Stefanki. Changed his eating habits, dropping 7 kilograms (15 pounds). And he worked and worked and worked, as much or more than ever, to improve his game, focusing with particular zeal on his backhand, his volleys, his returns.

All of those pieces allowed him to come quite close to adding a second Grand Slam title to his resume, alongside his 2003 U.S. Open title.

He broke Federer in the last game of the first set with a backhand down the line that forced an error. Roddick then took a 6-2 lead in the second-set tiebreaker. But he failed to convert any of those four set points, badly missing a backhand volley with a wide-open court on the last one.

“There was a pretty significant wind behind him at that side. It was gusting pretty good at that time. When he first hit it, I thought I wasn’t going to play it,” Roddick said. “Last minute, it looked like it started dropping. I couldn’t get my racket around on it.”

Federer won the last six points of that tiebreaker, and Roddick might have been expected to fold there.

“At that point, like everything else, there’s two options: You lay down or you keep going,” Roddick said. “The second option sounded better to me.”

And he most certainly did hang in there, even after dropping the third-set tiebreaker, too.

“Playing the way he did the last three sets, it’s a sign of a person’s character, and in my mind a champion,” Stefanki said.

Roddick was playing in his fifth career Grand Slam final Sunday; Federer in his record 20th. Roddick is now 1-4 on such occasions, with all of the losses to Federer, including at the 2006 U.S. Open. Indeed, Roddick dropped to 2-19 against Federer over their careers.

Roddick could be excused for wishing he had been born at another time, in another era, rather than being a year younger than Federer.

Their 2004 final at the All England Club went four sets, their 2005 final only three.

So Roddick was asked how Sunday’s defeat compared.

His answer was simple: “It’s worse.”


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