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Federer 'is the greatest ever tennis player'

By John Sinnott, CNN
July 9, 2012 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
Roger Federer celebrates a record-equaling seventh Wimbledon triumph, a 17th grand slam title and a return to the top of the world rankings. Roger Federer celebrates a record-equaling seventh Wimbledon triumph, a 17th grand slam title and a return to the top of the world rankings.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Roger Federer's win over Andy Murray equals Pete Sampras' seven-title Wimbledon record
  • The Swiss has won 17 grand slam titles -- the most in tennis history -- with Sampras next on 14
  • American tennis coach Nick Bollettieri believes Federer could still win as many as four more grand slams
  • He says Andy Murray's best chance of winning a grand slam is at the U.S. or Australian Opens

(CNN) -- If Muhammad Ali, Pele, Tiger Woods, Michael Schumacher and Michael Jordan are arguably the greatest proponents of their respective sports, Roger Federer made a compelling case for joining that pantheon of greats after securing a record-equaling seventh Wimbledon title on Sunday.

At the age of 30, considered a grand old age in tennis, he came from behind to leave Andy Murray -- an opponent five years his junior -- shattered and tearful after a gripping three and a half hours on Centre Court.

It ended Federer's two-and-a-half-year wait for a record-extending 17th grand slam title, and equaled his hero Pete Sampras' seven successes at the All England Club.

"I believe Roger is the best player to have ever played the game," American tennis coach Nick Bollettieri told CNN.

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"When you look at groundstrokes and all parts of the game, there is not a weakness in Novak Djokovic's technique, movement and recovery," added Bollettieri, referring to Serbia's 2012 Australian Open champion -- who Federer beat in Friday's semifinals.

"But when you come down to who is the best player that can change, that can anticipate and come forward and do anything, then my vote goes to Roger Federer."

Federer's latest victory ensured his return to the top of the world rankings, ending Djokovic's 12-month reign, as well as matching Sampras' record of 286 weeks at No. 1.

The Swiss is only the second player in the men's game to have held the top ranking over the age of 30, alongside Andre Agassi, who was one of the many leading players to attend Bollettieri's academy in Florida.

"I believe Roger thinks in his mind he can win anything," said Bollettieri, who also helped develop grand slam champions such as Jim Courier, Monica Seles, and Mary Pierce.

"With his game he can play for another two, three or four years and I sincerely believe he's another two, three or four grand slam titles in him."

Much has been made of the impact Ivan Lendl has had on Murray since becoming his coach in December 2011, but Bollettieri suggested Paul Annacone, who began working with Federer in August 2010, also deserves credit for persuading the four-time Laureus World Sportsman of the Year to adopt a more aggressive approach.

"Paul won't give too much advice to Roger Federer, a little bit here and a little bit there," said the 80-year-old. American. "He has him coming in and he has him much looser on that backhand.

"Annacone has got him hitting the backhand very aggressively and there is a lot of rackethead exploration rather than just blocking the ball.

"Roger's footwork is meticulous --- it reminds me of Ali. On Sunday he went around the ball a lot and when you do that you give up a lot of court space, so your success depends on your balance when hitting that shot as that is what operates the face of the racket."

While labeling Federer as "beyond description," Bollettieri stressed that Murray's gritty performance in the Wimbledon final bodes well for the future.

"Even though he lost, there will be an inner feeling he gave it his all," said Bollettieri, reflecting on the Scot's fourth successive grand slam final defeat -- three of them against Federer.

Roger Federer of Switzerland celebrates after defeating Andy Murray of Great Britain to win his 7th Wimbledon championship in London on Sunday, July 8. Visit CNN.com/tennis for complete coverage. Roger Federer of Switzerland celebrates after defeating Andy Murray of Great Britain to win his 7th Wimbledon championship in London on Sunday, July 8. Visit CNN.com/tennis for complete coverage.
Men's singles Wimbledon Championship
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Men\'s singles Wimbledon Championship Men's singles Wimbledon Championship
Great detail is taken as grounds crews prepare Centre Court for Sunday's historic match between Roger Federer and Andy Murray in the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London. Federer is seeking to tie the record for most men's singles titles at Wimbledon, and Murray is shooting to become the first British male to win his nation's major singles championship in 76 years. See the action as it unfolds here, and visit CNN.com/tennis for complete coverage.<br/><br/> Great detail is taken as grounds crews prepare Centre Court for Sunday's historic match between Roger Federer and Andy Murray in the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London. Federer is seeking to tie the record for most men's singles titles at Wimbledon, and Murray is shooting to become the first British male to win his nation's major singles championship in 76 years. See the action as it unfolds here, and visit CNN.com/tennis for complete coverage.

Wimbledon: The best photos
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Wimbledon: The best photos Wimbledon: The best photos
Serena Williams celebrates her win against Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska for her fifth Wimbledon title. Visit CNN.com/tennis for complete coverage. Serena Williams celebrates her win against Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska for her fifth Wimbledon title. Visit CNN.com/tennis for complete coverage.
Women's singles Wimbledon Championship
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Photos: Women\'s singles Wimbledon championship Photos: Women's singles Wimbledon championship
Fred Perry jumps for the ball against Germany's Gottfried von Cramm during the men's singles final on July 3, 1936. Perry defeated von Cramm that year to win his third straight title. But since then no male from the UK has won his country's most coveted title, and none had even made it to the final since Henry Wilfred "Bunny" Austin in 1938. Thus, the eyes of the nation will be upon Andy Murray on Sunday in the 2012 championship match against six-time champion Roger Federer of Switzerland. Fred Perry jumps for the ball against Germany's Gottfried von Cramm during the men's singles final on July 3, 1936. Perry defeated von Cramm that year to win his third straight title. But since then no male from the UK has won his country's most coveted title, and none had even made it to the final since Henry Wilfred "Bunny" Austin in 1938. Thus, the eyes of the nation will be upon Andy Murray on Sunday in the 2012 championship match against six-time champion Roger Federer of Switzerland.
Fred Perry: Britain's last Wimbledon champ
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Photos: Britain\'s last Wimbledon champ Photos: Britain's last Wimbledon champ

"Lendl has brought tremendous focus and a few simple tips on strategy, but he hasn't messed with his technique and all that crap. Murray's movement and anticipation is as good as anyone's in the game."

However if Murray is to win a grand slam, Bollettieri pointed to the hard-court surfaces of either the U.S. or Australian Opens as his best opportunity to break his duck.

"I don't believe grass or clay is the best surface for him. He is so good, but if the bounce is even he can stand closer to the baseline, he can hit aggressive and he can come in."

Australian tennis coach Pete McCraw, who has also worked with Bollettieri, is equally encouraging about Murray's future.

"The best is yet come for Andy, he is just entering the third phase of his career -- where he has the physical strength and emotional maturity, as well as the technical skills and experience," said McCraw, who has worked extensively with stars such as Maria Sharapova and Jelena Jankovic.

"With the British team around him and Lendl's wisdom, Andy is well positioned to make more grand slam finals in the future. The previous two finals were premature for Andy; the sport was ready, but he was not.

"He is more mature emotionally. There are less outbursts and lapses in concentration. His game from outward appearances is the same, but his mind and emotions are not.

"As a result he is playing with more structure and patterns, using his strengths more often, whereas in the past he would rely on a wider array of shot against his opponents. "

McCraw, who frequently travels to Britain to run coaching workshops, also argues that Murray's achievement in reaching the Wimbledon final will have a spinoff for grassroots tennis in the UK.

"British tennis will benefit immensely. It validates the pathway and what's possible for thousands of aspiring tennis players, and will be indelibly etched in their mind for years to come: 'If he can do it, so can I.' "

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