Federer ends record-breaking season in style

Published on Nov 21, 2006 07:59 PM IST

Federer is now set to outstrip Jimmy Connors's 1974-1977 record of 160 consecutive weeks as number one.

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None | ByAgence France-Presse, Seoul

World tennis number one Roger Federer ended a dominant 2006 by defeating his only real rival and world number two Rafael Nadal in an exhibition match in Seoul Tuesday.

Playing for a purse undisclosed by match organizers Hyundai Card, a stylish Federer took the game 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in one hour and 22 minutes for his fourth victory in the tenth meeting between the two -- and his second in three days.

The previous win came in the semi-finals of the Shanghai Masters on last Saturday, with Federer triumphing 6-4, 7-5 before winning the final of the season-ending tournament against American James Blake, also in straight sets.

The fierce rivals had hinted prior to their first appearance in South Korea that the match would be a relatively gentle affair at the end of a long season but there was little sign of that in a first set that started at breakneck pace.

Federer carried on where he left off in China with a faultless opening service game and a break of Nadal's serve to quickly establish a 4-1 lead.

The 25 year-old showed few signs of any ill-effects from a ten-month season in which he collected three out of four grand slam titles. His powerful serving and movement around the court thrilled an almost-capacity crowd at Seoul's Olympic Indoor Gymnasium.

Nadal could not establish a foothold in the match and the 24-minute first set finished in the way it had started, with a Federer service game to love.

The second set was a different affair as Nadal, who defeated Federer in the final of the French Open, in June, started in determined fashion by winning the first game to love.

As the set progressed, both players increasingly played to the crowd, especially the 20 year-old from Spain, who showed his athleticism with a series of acrobatic smashes.

The left-hander allowed Federer few chances on his famed forehand and finally broke serve in the eighth game, taking the next to win the second set 6-3.

The third set went with serve until game eight, when three unforced errors from Nadal, including a double fault, gave Federer a 5-3 lead and an opening.

The best player in the world did not need asking twice and clinched the match with an ace to end a phenomenal year with a familiar winning feeling.

In 2006, he became the first man to top eight million dollars in prize money in one season and is now set to outstrip Jimmy Connors's 1974-1977 record of 160 consecutive weeks as number one.

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