Federer clinches Australian Open
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Federer clinches Australian Open

World number one Roger Federer beats Chilean Fernando Gonzalez 7-6, 6-4, 6-4 to win his third Australian Open title.

india Updated: Jan 28, 2007 19:49 IST

Roger Federer captured his 10th Grand Slam singles title without dropping a set, finishing a dominating run through the Australian Open by beating Fernando Gonzalez of Chile 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-4 in Sunday's final.

Adding to his legacy, Federer improved his winning streak to a career-best 36 matches, became the first man in the Open era to twice win three straight majors and has won six of the last seven Grand Slam titles- his only loss was in the French Open final to Rafael Nadal.

It also was the first time that a champion went through a major without dropping a set since the 1980 French Open, when Bjorn Borg did it for the third time. Ken Rosewall, who was sitting in the stands, was the last man to accomplish the feat at the Australian Open, in 1971.

By reaching the final, Federer already had tied Jack Crawford's record of playing in seven consecutive finals at the majors, set in 1934.

The 25-year-old Federer now is within four of Pete Sampras' record 14 Grand Slam titles.

"I don't know how I did it so quickly, in such a short period of time," he said.

Next up is the French Open, the only major he hasn't won yet. "That's such a tough Grand Slam to win," Federer said. "I am improving year by year on clay and maybe one year (Nadal) won't be in the final. If he is, maybe I can beat him."

While Federer made his two-week blitz look easy, he told fans that a lot of work went into it.

"It all works out in the end. It is just wonderful. I have had a great run here again this year," he said, his parents watching from courtside after flying in to watch him for the first time in Australia. I am very proud to be holding this trophy again." Gonzalez, who fell to 0-10 in his career against Federer, said the Swiss star was simply too good.

"I have to congratulate again _ again _ Roger," the 26-year-old Chilean said. "He is a great champion who played a really good match today, all week _ almost all his life."

Federer said he had thought about a different strategy against Gonzalez, then recalled his past success.

"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," he said. "It did."

Gonzalez, seeded 10th and into his first Grand Slam final, kept Federer under pressure with his big forehand, but could not quite match the all-around game of the player who has been ranked No. 1 for 156 consecutive weeks.

He broke Federer in the ninth game, the first breakpoint chance of the match, and had two set points in the next game but failed to convert.

"I was missing too many forehands, I didn't know what to do exactly with his slice," Federer said. "Maybe the wind, maybe his court coverage and everything put me under pressure, and I wasn't feeling that great right from the start.

"If he closes out 6-4, he is clearly the better player in that set. I came back just at the right moment."

Federer broke back to level at 5-5 and then had four set points in the next game before Gonzalez held in a game that went to deuce seven times. That forced a tiebreaker which Federer dominated, jumping out to a 5-0 lead after winning a challenge against an incorrect baseline call and getting the first point replayed. Gonzalez, the Olympic doubles champion, had conceded only two points on serve in the second set until Federer broke for a 4-3 lead.

Federer fired an ace to close the second set and broke Gonzalez in the seventh game of the third. He earned triple championship point with a forehand winner and closed it with a backhand down the line.

"That match point was fantastic," Federer said. "I think that was my only backhand winner up the line when he was also at the baseline. To finish it off like this, it was great." He fell to his back, rolled over and then got up, hit a ball into the stands and took a bow. He held both arms high before throwing his wristband into crowd.

For the match, Federer lost only 17 points in 16 service games plus the tiebreaker, and dropped only two points on serve in the last set.

He finished with 45 winners and only 19 unforced errors _ just four in the final set.

Gonzalez, who had only three unforced errors against Tommy Haas in the semifinals, had 28 against Federer to go with 31 winners. The first set lasted 65 minutes, two minutes longer than Serena Williams needed to win the women's final 6-1, 6-2 over Maria Sharapova on Saturday afternoon.

Williams stayed in Melbourne and was at a packed Rod Laver Arena on a chilly, breezy night for the men's final that had fans bundled up.

Federer's win carried echoes of last year's final, when he beat Marcos Baghdatis, who had become a crowd darling as Gonzalez has. Amid chants of "Vamos Fernando" and "Come on Speedy," one particularly fervent fan clutched the corners of a Chilean flag and kissed the corners on key points.

Federer had plenty of backers, too, with a number of faces painted like the Swiss flag. One fan waved a sign that proclaimed "Federer is betterer," and the Swiss star backed it up. Gonzalez was trying to run around his backhand to whip powerful forehands and Federer was trying to keep him from doing it, leading to a number of backhand-to-backhand rallies.

But while Gonzalez has improved his backhand, the most glaring weakness in his game, Federer showed he can rip winners from either side.

Gonzalez was grunting, not on his shots but with effort while tracking down Federer's groundstrokes to the corners. He stumbled and fell once and nearly a second time, and frequently tied his shoes to buy time.

First Published: Jan 28, 2007 16:48 IST