WIMBLEDON, England - From the moment he stepped onto Wimbledon's lawn as a teenage phenom, Roger Federer felt he was destined to excel on the surface that frustrated so many others.
On Sunday, Federer reasserted his mastery over Centre Court's hallowed ground, overcoming a less than sterling start to win a record-tying seventh Wimbledon crown and spoil a celebration Britain had waited 76 years to stage.
The Swiss star beat Scotland's Andy Murray 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 for the 17th major title of his career and his first in 2 1/2 years - helped when officials closed the roof after a rain delay early in the second set.
"After the break, he was more aggressive," Murray said.
Federer reclaimed the world's No. 1 ranking - a remarkable feat by a man who is still raising his sport's standard of excellence on the cusp of his 31st birthday.
"I'm so happy I'm at the age I am right now because I know I've had such a great run," Federer said. "And I know there's still more possible."
Murray, 25, trying to become the first British man to win Wimbledon since 1936, when Fred Perry claimed the last of his three titles.
The Scot had galvanized the nation by reaching the tournament's final, something no native son had done for 74 years. And royals and rock stars flocked to the All England Club Sunday to cheer his pursuit, including the Duchess of Cambridge (the former Kate Middleton) and the Rolling Stones' Ron Wood.
Murray, a stoic young man who handled the pressure well, wept in thanking the crowd after the 3-hour, 24-minute match.
"I'm getting closer," Murray said.
Federer and Murray had met 15 times before, with the Scot holding an 8-7 edge. But they'd never played on grass, the surface that has become Federer's fiefdom the last decade.
The Swiss boasts the better serve, a greater array of strokes and vast big-match experience. Murray hadn't won a single set in his three major finals (2008 U.S. Open, 2010 and 2011 Australian), but he has a potent service return and cross-court backhand and good quickness.
In the first set, Murray broke Federer twice, including the ninth game. Murray blasted an ace, then a service winner to hold, finally claiming a set.
Murray appeared headed to a tiebreak in the second set, with the Scot serving at 5-6. But a backhand drop volley for break point by Federer and a brilliant volley leveled the match.
The skies opened 11 minutes into the third set. Play was suspended for 40 minutes with Federer serving at 1-1, 40-love. At that point, he had won 86 points; Murray, 85.
Interruptions in play often change the momentum of a match. In this case, the decision to close the $120 million retractable roof affected Federer's strategy.
He was more aggressive once play resumed, charging to the net and attacking Murray's second serve with zeal. With the roof negating the variable of wind, Federer said, he felt emboldened to try shots that had less margin for error and struck the ball with surgical precision.
"When the roof closed, he played unbelievable tennis," Murray said after Federer won 65 of the 117 points played indoors.
The sixth game gutted Murray, who bolted to a 40-love lead, then faced 10 deuces before plowing a backhand into the net on Federer's sixth break point.
Federer took a 2-1 lead, then closed out Murray. He dropped to his knees, then gazed up at his box, where his twin daughters, almost 3, waved at their father.
"A magical moment," Federer said.