Federer beats 23rd straight top-10 opponent
HOUSTON -- Top-seeded Roger Federer won a record 13th straight final Sunday, beating Lleyton Hewitt 6-3, 6-2 in the title match of the ATP Masters Cup.
Federer, who beat his 23rd straight top-10 opponent, dominated the final tournament of the season just as he dominated most of 2004. He won his second straight Masters Cup and broke the record of 12 straight finals victories shared by Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe.
"It's been an incredible season, like a fairy tail," Federer said. "I can leave on vacation now with a great feeling and with great memories. My priorities now are to defend my Wimbledon title and to defend my No. 1 ranking. That's what I'm aiming for."
Federer, who earned $1,520,000, became the first player since Ivan Lendl in 1986-87 to win consecutive Masters Cup titles without losing a match. Federer also won his 22nd tournament since 2000, the most of any player in that span. Hewitt has won 21.
Federer won his 74th match of the year, tying Andy Roddick for the tour lead. He moved ahead of Hewitt in career matches 8-7 by winning the last six in a row, including twice in this year's Masters Cup.
"I've had some tough losses to him (Hewitt), he's the player I've played the most," Federer said. "They have been great matches. He's a great counter puncher and the last few matches have been one-sided, which surprises me because he's such a great player."
Rain delayed the tournament through the week, and it happened again Sunday. The start was delayed almost three hours, and the first set was just 27 minutes old when rain stopped play with Federer leading 5-2.
Federer served flawlessly in the early going, missing only nine serves in the first set and hitting seven aces.
Federer broke in the second game at the second break point with a passing shot. Leading 4-1, Federer allowed Hewitt to escape another break point in the sixth game but Federer had three straight errors and Hewitt held.
After the rain delay, Federer closed out the first set and broke Hewitt in the fifth game of the second set for a 3-2 lead. Hewitt won only four points after that, popping a service return beyond the baseline on match point.
"He doesn't give you any cheap points," Hewitt said. "He served so well today and he mixes up his serves. They are not as big as (Andy) Roddick or (Marat) Safin but he has such good variety. He sets up his serves so well."
The final was less memorable than Federer's semifinal victory over Marat Safin on Saturday when Federer won a record-tying 20-18 tiebreaker in the second set.
It was the third tiebreaker to reach 20-18 since the system started in 1970. It equaled tiebreaker victories by Bjorn Borg in a 1973 first round over Premjit Lall at Wimbledon and by Goran Ivanisevic against Daniel Nestor in the 1993 U.S. Open.
Federer and Hewitt also met in the finals of the U.S. Open with similar results, Federer winning 6-0, 7-6 (3), 6-0.
"I think he played better in the U.S. Open," Hewitt said. "It's hard to fault the way he played at the start of the Open. I don't think I've ever seen any one play that good. He had spots like that today."
The tournament final was reduced to best of three sets instead of best of five because of the threat of more rain.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press