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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Federer makes history at Flushing Meadows

NEW YORK — Roger Federer won his 13th Grand Slam crown and fifth consecutive US Open title on Monday, defeating Andy Murray 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 to move one Slam title shy of the all-time record.

Federer's 56th career crown moved him into sole possession of second place on the all-time Slam title list, one more than Roy Emerson and one below the career record 14 won by Pete Sampras. "One thing is for sure. I'm not going to stop at 13," Federer said. "That would be terrible."

After losing this year's Wimbledon and French Open finals and his number one ranking to Spain's Rafael Nadal, Federer's aura of invincibility had dimmed but his US Open title served notice he still remains a force in tennis. "To bounce back straight away after losing the number one ranking, this is the best scenario ever," Federer said. "After Wimbledon, after Paris - I had some rough losses those - to come away with the last Slam, to sit on this for four months, it's unbelievable."

The win makes Federer the first man to win five Slams in a row at two different events, having also completed the feat last year at Wimbledon. No one had won five US titles in a row since Bill Tilden in 1924. "It definitely feels great," Federer said. "This is a very special moment in my career. To take this one home is incredible. It means the world to me." Swiss second seed Federer stretched his US Open match win streak to 34, his last loss at Flushing Meadows coming to David Nalbandian in the fourth round of 2003, and took home the top prize of 1.5 million dollars. "I felt like I was invincible for a while again," Federer said. "That's how you want to finish a tournament."

It was Federer's 17th Slam final, two shy of Ivan Lendl's all-time mark. It took Federer 38 Slam appearances to win his 13th Slam, five fewer than Sampras needed to reach the same total. Federer had not won a prior hardcourt title all year. The last player to make the US Open his first hardcourt crown of a season was Sampras in 2002 for his last Slam crown.

Murray, playing in his first Slam final, had won two of three prior matches with Federer but was outclassed to bring a disappointing end to a run that will see him rise to fourth in the rankings, matching the best-ever British mark. "I had a great tournament," Murray said. "Came up against, in my opinion, the greatest player to ever play the game. I got the best of him the last two times we played. He definitely set the record straight."

Asked what he had learned, Murray replied, "I've got a lot of improving to do if I want to win one of these."

Federer, 27, thrilled a sellout crowd of 23,763 at Arthur Ashe Stadium in the first US Open final since 1987 pushed to Monday by bad weather. It was the first Monday men's Slam final since Goran Ivanisevic won at Wimbledon in 2001. Murray, who took one one million dollars, would have been the first British man to win a Slam since Fred Perry at the 1936 US Open and the first British Slam champion of either sex since Virginia Wade won in 1977 at Wimbledon. Murray's loss was the fifth for a British man in a Slam final since Perry's triumph, including Greg Rusedski at the 1997 US Open, John Lloyd at the 1977 Australian Open and Bunny Austin at the 1937 French Open and 1938 Wimbledon.

Federer broke Murray in the sixth and eighth games of the match to win the first set in 27 minutes. He broke Murray again in the second game of the second set but Murray broke back at love in the next game and the fight was joined. "I started serving well. I put the pressure on Andy. I started the second set well so I always had a little bit of a cushion," Federer said. Murray went to 0-40 on Federer's serve in the fifth game of the second set but Federer denied the Scotsman and the two traded holds of serve until the last game, which Federer finished with three winners to break for the set. "I played well in the game I broke to win the set and that was key because it was going to be hard for him to come back from two sets down," Federer said.

Federer broke Murray's first two service games at love in the third set and, after surrendering a break when he was serving two points from the title, broke him again in the last game on his third overhead smash of the point. Murray sent the ball into the net after one hour and 51 minutes and Federer fell to his knees and then rolled onto his back, overcome with the moment as he screamed his joy before rising and raising his hands in a salute to the crowd. "He made very few mistakes," Murray said. "The times I played him before he had given me a few free points. I missed a lot of first serves and he was able to dictate a lot of the points on second serves."

Meanwhile, five years after completing the "Serena Slam" by winning all four tennis Grand Slam titles back-to-back, Serena Williams targeted a new period of dominance following her victory at the U.S. Open on Sunday. “It doesn’t stop here,” Williams told a press conference after beating Jelena Jankovic of Serbia 6-4, 7-5. “I want to get double digits. I like that I’m at nine because I’m pushing for ten, and I feel like I can do it. I feel like I have a new career, I feel so young and I feel so energized to play every week and to play every tournament. I feel like there’s just so much that I can do in my career yet. I’ve never felt like I’ve played my best tennis.”

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