Locked in the toughest test of his Wimbledon reign, against his only real rival in today's game, Roger Federer summoned the strokes and resolve that allow him to chase records set by the greats of yesteryear.
And after Federer finally overcame Rafael Nadal in a five-set epic Sunday to win his fifth consecutive championship at the All England Club and 11th Grand Slam title overall, tying Bjorn Borg on both counts, guess who was waiting to greet him in a hallway off Centre Court?
Borg himself. They smiled and embraced, then chatted briefly, a tete-a-tete between the only two men in the past century to win Wimbledon five years in a row.
"To see him after the match -- it was very fitting in my point of view," Federer said. "It made me a bit more proud of myself."
He could swell his chest all he wanted, given everything he's accomplished. And given the way he beat three-time French Open champion Nadal 7-6 (7), 4-6, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-2 for his 54th straight victory on grass in a taut match filled with momentum swings and marvelous shotmaking.
Federer is No. 1, Nadal is No. 2, and they have met in four of the past six major finals. Federer won both at the All England Club. Nadal won both at Roland Garros. This was, by far, the best of the bunch.
"I win my share. He wins his. We've been at the top for over 100 weeks together. It is like building up to one of maybe the great rivalries," Federer said. "We sometimes haven't lived up to the expectations in the past ... but you can't always play five-set thrillers, you know. I'm happy it happened today. I left as the winner. Perfect."
He's taken 11 of the past 17 Grand Slam titles, including three apiece at the Australian Open and U.S. Open. Now Federer's total trails only Roy Emerson's 12 and Pete Sampras' 14 on the list of career Grand Slam titles.
"I don't know how much longer I can keep it up," the 25-year-old Federer said, "but I definitely feel like I'm mentally and physically still fit to go on for many more years."
As close as the 21-year-old Nadal is to a barrier -- the Spaniard does lead their career series 8-5, after all -- Federer's main challenge for some time has come from trying to live up to standards set in the past.
Even if Federer doesn't necessarily look at it that way.
"He has so much passion for the game," said his mother, Lynette. "He's not playing for the record books. He's playing for the game."
On Sunday, on his game's grandest stage, Federer finished with a 24-1 edge in aces and a 65-50 edge in winners. Numbers hardly do justice to his excellence or elegance with a racket in hand, however.