Federer improves grand total to 9

Too much for Roddick, winner takes 9th Slam, but at age 25, he doesn't `want to stop here'

U.S. Open

September 11, 2006|By John Jeansonne | John Jeansonne,NEWSDAY

NEW YORK -- Tennis ownership was an ongoing issue throughout the U.S. Open's two-week run, with Billie Jean King's name tacked onto the USTA National Tennis Center and the sport's heart given to retiring Andre Agassi. But when it came down to another men's title match at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Roger Federer again demonstrated that he is Master of the House.

Yesterday's 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 victory over Andy Roddick gave Federer ownership of a third consecutive Open championship, a reign accomplished only twice since the Open era came to the sport in 1968 (by John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl). It made Federer the first man in history to win both Wimbledon and the U.S. titles in the same year three straight times. It put Federer, still only 25, in a position of power that tennis observers and, frankly, tennis players, are finding difficult to comprehend.

Even Federer.

"I'm shocked myself how well it's been going the last three, four years," Federer said of the nine Grand Slam events he has won in the past 14 majors. "Because, being not only compared to former great tennis players, but now, especially also to other great athletes all over sports, it's just really nice."

Roddick, re-establishing himself as a legitimate major tournament contender, scrambled back from an 0-5 start with a quick service break in the second set before trading blows with Federer throughout the decisive third. Yet it was Federer who served 17 aces (without a double fault) while blunting Roddick's big-serve power (only seven aces).

And it was Federer who survived the third set after its fifth and sixth games put on display Roddick's new confidence, improved down-the-line backhand and willingness to attack. In those two games, after Roddick saved four break points, Federer saved five, after going to deuce six times.

Through it all, Federer showed patience. Calm. An ability not only to punch out big winners but also to hit Roddick with combinations of serve, deep cross-court forehand, sliced backhand, lob, drop shot - whatever could get Roddick out of position to put him away.

Still neck-and-neck at 5-5 in the third, Federer held his serve at love, then pounced by breaking Roddick to take the set, neutralizing Roddick serves of 128 and 132 mph by keeping those rockets in play.

From there, the fourth set went as Federer's career has gone since mid-2003. Federer is just five career Grand Slam tournament titles short of Pete Sampras' record 14. Yesterday's ninth major crown moved Federer past Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Lendl, Fred Per- ry and Ken Rosewall.

"It's nice," Federer said. "I don't want to stop here. I remember being in great company when I reached six, and then seven and eight, the same. There's always such great players on that level. Now I'm left alone at nine. So it feels a bit strange, obviously, because I'm still going. It's been a fantastic season. Winning three Slams [this year], it's unbelievable. Something I've done in '04, but this year I was in the finals of the French as well, so it's really incredible."

As he rolled through this year's Open - almost quietly, at times, because of the fuss over King, Agassi, Martina Navratilova's retirement just before her 50th birthday, Roddick's new association with Connors - Federer was called "the best athlete of our time, in any sport" by James Blake, and a "nice guy who is a killer on the court" by semifinalist Nikolay Davydenko.

That Federer is more difficult to handle than anyone else on the tour, Roddick said, "is pretty obvious, isn't it? We know the answer to that, don't we?"

"Obviously, Roger is at the top and he's the only person at the top, regardless of how much people want to make rivalry comparisons and this, that and the other," Roddick said. "He's the best player in the game. There's no question in my mind, or if you ask any player's mind about that."

King had begun the tournament by telling the fans, "Mi casa es su casa" - My house is your house. That is true; the center is part of a public park. But for two weeks there each September, Federer rules.

Note -- Nathalie Dechy and Vera Zvonareva won the U.S. Open women's doubles title, beating Dinara Safina and Katarina Srebotnik, 7-6 (5), 7-5. It's the first Grand Slam championship for both France's Dechy and Russia's Zvonareva, who were playing in only their fourth tournament together and second major. Russia's Safina and Slovenia's Srebotnik held three set points in the opener, leading 5-4 and love-40 on Zvonareva's serve. But Dechy-Zvonareva won the next five points. The eventual champions trailed again in the tiebreaker before taking its last four points. In the second set, Srebotnik was broken while trailing 6-5 to end the match after 1 hour, 46 minutes.

John Jeansonne writes for Newsday. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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