ROGER Federer won a record-equalling seventh Wimbledon title and 17th Grand Slam crown yesterday, shattering tearful Andy Murray's dream of ending Britain's 76-year wait for an All England Club men's champion.
Federer, playing in his eighth Wimbledon final, triumphed 4-6 7-5 6-3 6-4 to join Pete Sampras and William Renshaw as a seven-time champion at Wimbledon.
The Swiss great, who has also regained the world No1 ranking, is just the third man over 30 to win Wimbledon following Rod Laver in 1969 and Arthur Ashe in 1975.
Murray, bidding to be the first British man since Fred Perry in 1936 to win Wimbledon, has now lost all four Grand Slam finals in which he has appeared.
"It equals me with Pete Sampras, who's my hero, so it feels amazing," said Federer, whose last Wimbledon title was in 2009 and was without a major tournament victory since the 2010 Australian Open.
"It feels great being back here as the winner. It feels like it's never left me. I think I played some of my best tennis in the last couple of matches. I couldn't be more happy."
On getting back to the world No1, Federer, who now has 75 titles, added: "I never stopped believing."
Murray, the first British man to reach a Wimbledon final since Bunny Austin in 1938, broke down in tears at the closing ceremony, delivering his speech but faltering on numerous occasions.
"I'm getting closer," said an emotional Murray, who had to gather himself before continuing.
"I'm going to try this but it won't be easy. Firstly I'd like to congratulate Roger. I was asked the other day if this is my best chance? Roger's 30. He's not bad for a 30-year-old."
In the opening exchanges of the final, Murray was the stronger player, making the most of his five-year advantage as Federer looked fatigued and ragged.
But once the £80m roof was shut in the early stages of the third set, as torrential rain bucketed down outside, the momentum shifted and Federer gained the ascendancy. Murray, defeated by Federer in the 2008 US Open and 2010 Australian Open finals without winning a set, broke in the first game when an uncharacteristically nervy Federer ballooned a drive volley and that break was backed up by a hold.
Federer held and retrieved the break, shrugging off the boozy call of "I love you, Roger" from a male fan in the 15000 crowd.
Murray survived two break points in the eighth game and made the most of the reprieve when he broke to lead 5-4 as Federer netted a forehand, having had to take evasive action to avoid a Murray missile.
The Scot then wrapped up the opener on an unreturned serve - it was the first set Murray had won in his three Grand Slam finals, with Federer's 16 unforced errors to his opponent's five proving key.
Murray saved a break point in the second game of the second set while Federer saved two in the fifth.
The two men served a pair of love games as Federer led 4-3 while Murray wasted two break points in the ninth game as the six-time champion clung on for a 5-4 advantage.
The Briton again served a love game for 5-5. But Federer held and suddenly carved out a set point with a magical drop volley in the 12th game. Another immaculate drop volley gave him the set 7-5.
At 1-1 and 40-0 for Federer in the third set, heavy rain drove the players off court for 40 minutes and the roof was closed.
In a dramatic sixth game, which lasted 20 minutes and went to 10 deuces, Murray took three tumbles, surrendered a 40-0 lead and Federer broke on a sixth break point for a 4-2 lead.
A ninth ace of the contest in the ninth game gave Federer the set 6-3 and a two sets to one lead.
Suddenly, the life and vibrancy seeped out of Murray. He felt his lower back, Victoria Beckham looked even more sombre in the royal box, and the Scot slipped 3-2 down off a killer backhand drive.
A 12th ace in the 10th game took Federer to two match points, the first of which was saved. But Murray went wide on a forehand to hand Federer victory.