Roger Federer wins Aus Open
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Roger Federer wins Aus Open

Top-ranked Federer beat unseeded Baghdatis 5-7, 7-5, 6-0, 6-2 for his seventh Grand Slam title.

india Updated: Jan 29, 2006 19:04 IST

Top-ranked Roger Federer claimed his seventh Grand Slam title on Sunday, overcoming an early challenge from unseeded Marcos Baghdatis to win the Australian Open 5-7, 7-5, 6-0, 6-2.

Stepping up his game as the match wore on, Federer's experience under pressure showed, running off 11 straight games to take control from 5-5 in the second set.

Even Baghdatis' rowdy fans, who grew in number as he knocked off second-seeded Andy Roddick, No. 4 David Nalbandian and two other seeded players in the tournament, couldn't help the Cypriot rally this time.

The 24-year-old Federer won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year and will be seeking a non-calendar year Grand Slam in May on the clay at Roland Garros, where his best performance was reaching the semifinals in 2005.

With a boisterous atmosphere more akin to a World Cup soccer final, a buzz permeated Rod Laver Arena well before the match started: Could Baghdatis— a 500-to-1 longshot in November who had never gone past the fourth round of a Grand Slam event— really knock off the man dominating the men's tour?

It looked improbable at best. Federer had won all three of their previous matches, including earlier this month in Doha. But Baghdatis made believers of the crowd for a while. It was a perfect night for tennis after two weeks of occasionally unbearable heat and sudden storms. While there were plenty of red-and-white Swiss flags scattered around the stadium, the dominant colours were Greek blue and white. Signs of "Go Marcos, You Rule" were mixed with "We Luv You Federer."

Baghdatis' backers chanted between points, giving chair umpire Pascal Maria a real challenge to maintain control. One man, in a traditional Greek outfit, danced on his chair.

As in Baghdatis' earlier matches— including a semifinal victory over Nalbandian in which he rallied from two sets down— the Cypriot was nerveless early, shaking off errors with stinging baseline winners.

In fact, it was the normally implacable Federer who blinked first. Serving at 5-5 in the first set, he fended off two break points before committing back-to-back forehand errors— the latter after he halted his service motion after a fan shouted, "Settle, Roger, settle!"

Flashing his infectious smile and using his racket to bounce the ball once between his legs before each serve— a move that he picked up from watching Federer— Baghdatis held easily to finish off the set as the crowd roared.

He broke Federer again to start the second set and had two break opportunities to go up 3-0 before Federer fought back to level at 3-3.

Bagdhatis, a former junior world champion, had three game points at 5-6 to force a tiebreaker, but Federer rallied to break on a Baghdatis forehand that was ruled just long. The Cypriot, who questions calls infrequently, did this time. But TV replays showed the ruling was correct.

Federer ran off 27 of the 37 points in the third set to take control.

Baghdatis had played two consecutive five-setters and three overall in the tournament, and the wear and tear started to show. He suffered a cramp in his left thigh in the second game of the fourth set, and the brilliant winners came less often as the errors piled up.

Federer won his 11th consecutive game to go up 3-0. Getting treatment on his calf at every changeover, Baghdatis tried to rally one last time and had a break point with Federer serving at 4-2 that would have gotten him back on serve, but Federer held, then broke for the eighth time. A forehand crosscourt set up match point, and Baghdatis netted a backhand to finish it in 2 hours 46 minutes.

Federer rose his arms in triumph and applauded his racket in acknowledgment of the crowd's ovation.

First Published: Jan 29, 2006 17:46 IST