Federer perfect in winning Australian Open

Updated: January 28, 2007, 6:38 PM ET
Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Roger Federer held back the tears this time. He didn't hold back much else at the Australian Open.

Roger Federer
Quinn Rooney/Getty ImagesRoger Federer hoists the trophy from his 10th Grand Slam championship.

Federer underlined his 10th Grand Slam singles title by winning 21 straight sets, saving a set point in Sunday's final before finishing off Fernando Gonzalez 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-4.

The last man to go through a major without dropping a set was Bjorn Borg at the 1980 French Open. The only other man to win the Australian Open without dropping a set was Ken Rosewall in 1971, although he had to play only five matches.

"Equaling records, doing something that hasn't been done for a long time, it's really nice, no doubt," Federer said. "All I care about in the end is to hopefully hold that trophy. Of course, now that it's over, it's great to think, 'Wow, you know, not having dropped a set.' It's quite amazing."

Rosewall was in the crowd Sunday night, and Federer gave him a nod in a composed victory speech. It was the mere presence of another Australian great, Rod Laver, that reduced Federer to tears the previous year at the trophy presentation.

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"I can't force them out every year!" Federer said of his sobbing celebration in 2006, when he accepted the trophy from Laver. "I had a wonderful tournament. A great end. Just because there were no tears doesn't mean it doesn't mean anything to me."

Laver, the last man to win the Grand Slam -- all four majors in one season -- made the trip from California to see Federer dismantle Andy Roddick 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 in the semifinals.

He met with Federer in the locker room after the semifinal and said he had little doubt the 25-year-old Swiss star could beat Pete Sampras' record 14 Grand Slam singles titles, and just about every other tennis record as well.

"The best way to beat him would be to hit him over the head with a racket," Laver joked in a newspaper column.

Most Career Grand Slam Titles
Player
Total
Pete Sampras
14
Roy Emerson
12
Bjorn Borg
11
Rod Laver
11
Roger Federer
10
Bill Tilden
10

Federer improved his streak to a career-best 36 wins, became the first man in the Open era to twice win three straight majors and has collected six of the last seven Grand Slam titles.

He tied Jack Crawford's 73-year-old record by reaching his seventh consecutive final in majors.

"If somebody would have told me I'd win 10 Grand Slams from mid '03 till today, I never would have thought there was any chance," he said.

"In the end I said, 'You know what, I've beaten [Gonzalez] nine times, so just take it easy and play your game, and hopefully it is going to work out. It did."
-- Roger Federer

Even before the tournament he had enough points to ensure he will break Jimmy Connors' record of 160 consecutive weeks atop the men's rankings by the end of next month.

Although he knows he's only one-quarter of the way there in 2007, a season Grand Slam is his objective. He was two sets from that last year, when he won the first set of the French Open final before losing in four to Rafael Nadal.

That was his only defeat in the last seven majors. Nadal was 26-0 on clay last season and is on a record 62-match streak on the surface.

"French Open is obviously the next big one for me," he said. "I've made one step further every year now. Went from semis to finals. Got closer to Rafa, as well."

Longest Winning Streaks
Open era
Player
Wins
Years
Guillermo Vilas
46
1977
Ivan Lendl
44
1981-82
John McEnroe
42
1983-84
Bjorn Borg
41
1979-80
Roger Federer
* Active streak
36*
2006-07

That and three other losses to Nadal were about the only downsides of his 2006 season -- he was 91-1 against everyone else and picked up 12 titles.

"I think it's going to be a very interesting French Open for me ... hopefully win the title," he said. "That will be a dream come true. That's the only way I can make this season a better one than last year. Otherwise it won't be possible."

Federer saw Gonzalez coming. The Chilean beat former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt and Masters Cup finalist James Blake before pounding Nadal in straight sets in the quarterfinals.

"I knew he was a dangerous player, and the way he's been going through the draw made me wonder what did he do different this time around," Federer said. "Especially the win against Nadal -- it kind of shocked me. ... I didn't believe he was going to beat Rafa so easy."

Then Gonzalez routed Haas 6-1, 6-3, 6-1.

Fernando Gonzalez
Lucas Dawson/Getty ImagesFernando Gonzalez dropped to 0-10 all-time against Roger Federer.

Federer considered changing strategy against Gonzalez.

"In the end I said, 'You know what, I've beaten him nine times, so just take it easy and play your game, and hopefully it is going to work out,"' Federer said. "It did."

Gonzalez had the most vocal cheering section Sunday, many with painted faces chanting and blowing whistles and twirling flags as if they were at a soccer game.

Federer, as usual, had thousands of backers, too. One fan, dressed in Swiss red and white, carried a sign that summed up the general feeling: "Federer is betterer." In the end, he was.

It was close in the beginning.

Gonzalez broke Federer in the ninth game and had set points at 5-4, but was unable to convert the opportunities. Both players agreed that was the turning point.

"I have to congratulate again Roger," Gonzalez said. "He's on the way to be maybe the best player ever. He is a great champion who played a really good match today, all week -- almost all his life. So I can take a lot out of this tournament."

Federer's Perfect Run in Melbourne
Round
Opponent
Result
First
Bjorn Phau
7-5, 6-0, 6-4
Second
Jonas Bjorkman
6-2, 6-3, 6-2
Third
Mikhail Youzhny (25)
6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (5)
Fourth
Novak Djokovic (14)
6-2, 7-5, 6-3
QF
Tommy Robredo (7)
6-3, 7-6 (2), 7-5
SF
Andy Roddick (6)
6-4, 6-0, 6-2
Final
Fernando Gonzalez (10)
7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-4

Gonzalez was the biggest mover in the men's top 10, moving five places to No. 5 with his run to his first Grand Slam final.

Serena Williams won her eighth and most improbable Grand Slam title, beating top-seeded Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-2 on Saturday in one of the most lopsided finals at the Australian Open. Sharapova left for Tokyo on Sunday, knowing she would assume the No. 1 ranking the following day.

Williams, who played about half as many matches in two weeks at Melbourne Park as she did in an injury-plagued 2006, stuck around to watch the men's final. She will move from No. 81 to No. 14 and has designs on getting back to No. 1.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press