From his front row seat in the Royal Box, Pete Sampras watched as Roger Federer broke his record for most Grand Slam singles titles in men's tennis history.
After Federer overcame Andy Roddick in a marathon, five-set serving duel on Sunday for his sixth Wimbledon title and 15th Grand Slam championship, Sampras was left with no doubt about who is the greatest male player of all time.
"I have to give it to him," said Sampras, a seven-time Wimbledon champion who never thought his record of 14 major titles would be surpassed so soon.
"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 (the greatest)."
The Swiss second seed won 5-7, 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 16-14, in a match lasting almost four-and-a-half hours and watched by tennis giants Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg in London.
Federer was given a huge fright by the American sixth seed who led by a set, had four set points in the second and didn't drop serve until the final, heartbreaking game of the match.
In an extraordinary conclusion, the last set was the longest ever played in a men's Wimbledon final.
Federer now has six Wimbledon titles, five US Opens, three Australian Opens and a French Open trophy. He reclaims the world No 1 spot from Rafael Nadal, who beat him in a five-set final at Wimbledon last year, and who missed this year's tournament due to a knee injury.
More titles to come
Federer has firmly cemented himself as the finest player of the generation and, at age 27, the favorite for other major titles to come.
"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," said Federer, who completed a career Grand Slam by winning the French Open a month ago.
"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."
It took four hours, 16 minutes, five sets and 77 games for Federer to secure the record. His 50 aces were one short of the Wimbledon match record held by Ivo Karlovic. Federer had a total of 107 winners, compared with 38 unforced errors. Roddick had 27 aces, 74 winners and 33 unforced errors.
Roddick later told the crowd: "I'm one of the lucky few who gets cheered for, so thank you for that. I just want to say congratulations to Roger, he deserves everything he gets, so well done Roger."
Looking up to the Royal Box, he told compatriot Sampras: "I tried, sorry Pete."