Challenge of calendar Slam awaits Federer

In his last two matches, Roger Federer won sets where his opponent did not win a game. As Chris Fowler writes, Federer has the ability to be ruthless, but in a classy way, to his opponents.

Updated: January 31, 2006, 5:16 PM ET
By Chris Fowler | Special to ESPN.com

MELBOURNE, Australia -- What strikes me about Roger Federer that is not often talked about with him is he's ruthless in his own very classy, understated way. And you see it in finals.

He has an unbelievable ability to win sets 6-0 or 6-1 against very good players. Obviously against Baghdatis, fatigue was a problem. But Federer wouldn't concede anything in this match.

The key point in the match was at 6-5 in the second set, Baghdatis was serving at 40-love and everyone in the world was thinking about the tie break and Federer wasn't. He battled back, won five straight points and the set.

From that point on Federer knew Baghdatis was emotionally drained and physically suffering.

Roger Federer
Cynthia Lum/WireImage.com
Roger is a ruthless guy and likes to pummel you when he can. He doesn't do it in a chest-bumping kind of way, but he served up four bagel sets in this tournament, including one in the semifinal against Nicolas Kiefer and one against Baghdatis. He finished out his last two matches with identical scores: 6-0, 6-2.

In terms of sets lost (5) along the way to winning the final, this was the most competitive of any of his seven Grand Slam titles. He had to fight for it, even though some big names were missing and his path to the title, on paper, didn't look that difficult. But he was pushed and tested.

The one thing about Federer that doesn't get played up enough is he's in very good condition and works hard. He was the physically stronger and fitter player in the final. Baghdatis had two days off before the final. Federer won 14 of the last 16 games and had plenty of gas left in the tank.

There's a reason why he's 7-0 in Grand Slam finals. That's what you're always watching when Federer plays: you're watching him try to win a match, a title and pursue history. That's what makes it interesting.

With his second Australian Open title, he's moved passed Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker in Grand Slam titles and has equaled John McEnroe and Mats Wilander. With his next Slam he'll have as many as Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl. You're talking about the greatest players in the Open era right there and Federer's just 24. It's scary.

That's what makes it fun to watch him. It's not just about winning a match, but this is part of his growing legacy.

Before it's all said and done, Federer could win 15, 16, 17 or 20 Grand Slam titles. He's charting a course and it might take him where no one has been able to go before and that's what's fun to watch.

Federer is going to head to Roland Garros with the possibility of winning a calendar Slam, and the hype will build for that because that's the one that's eluded him so far. It's also Rafael Nadal's best surface. There will be tremendous hype entering Paris. You are going to see the crescendo of hype about winning the calendar Slam and it's going to be interesting to see how he handles it.

It's an exciting time in tennis, because in an event where some big names were missing (Nadal, Andre Agassi, Marat Safin) and when most of the more celebrated young guns flamed out early, Baghdatis arrives out of nowhere. He has now become one more star and it's going to be interesting to see where he goes from here. His improvement in the last year has been super. He has the kind of game that says he's going to be around for a while.

It points out the global nature of tennis and number of talented players who have adapted to different styles.

The young players are the ones who are going to stop Federer from achieving his ultimate milestone. It's not going to be Lleyton Hewitt or Andy Roddick. It's the guys younger than Federer coming along, like Nadal, Richard Gasquet and Gael Monfils. They aren't in awe of him quite like some guys who are older and have been beaten down pretty good by him.

It will be really exciting to see Federer chase down records and see just how dominating he can be.

It's really a good time in tennis.

ESPN's Chris Fowler will provide analysis for ESPN.com during the Australian Open.

Chris Fowler

College Football
Since 1989, Chris Fowler has been ESPN's primary college football and men's college basketball studio host. He's anchored College GameDay, the network's award-winning Saturday morning college football preview show, since 1990.

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