Federer celebrates 13th final victory in a row

Roger Federer started the week recuperating from a torn thigh muscle and ended it with a strong hold on the No. 1 ranking.

Roger Federer started the week recuperating from a torn thigh muscle and ended it with a strong hold on the No. 1 ranking.

The top-seeded Federer won a record 13th straight final today, beating Lleyton Hewitt 6-3, 6-2 in the title match of the ATP Masters Cup in Houston.

Federer's victory broke the record he shared with Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. He ended the season with 17 straight match victories, and his 74 match victories ties Andy Roddick for the most on tour this year.

"It's been an incredible season, like a fairy tale," Federer said.

Hewitt, the Australian former No. 1, lost to Federer six times this year, including in the finals of the US Open.

"For a long time now, my game's matched up pretty well," Hewitt said. "Even this week, it's been good enough to beat nearly everyone but one guy. You know, the last two big tournaments - the U.S. Open and here - the only guy I've run into who's been better has been Roger Federer."

Federer's winning percentage of .925 is the best since Ivan Lendl had the same 74-6 record in 1986. McEnroe has the record with a .965 percentage and an 82-3 record in 1984.

Federer is proud of his accomplishments.

"Early in my career, you know, I was struggling with consistency," Federer said. "I mean you couldn't get more consistent than I was this year. For me, this is incredible."

Federer, who earned $1,520,000, became the first player since Lendl in 1986-87 to win consecutive Masters Cup titles without losing a match. Federer also won his 22nd tournament since 2000, the most of any player in that time. Hewitt has 21.

Federer has won on all surfaces. His victory Sunday gave him a 46-4 record on hard courts.

"I've proven on all surfaces everywhere in the world that I can win the title," Federer said. "I think that makes it very special, this whole year, because the season I've had and I've basically won on all continents."

Rain delayed the tournament throughout the week and did so again Sunday. The start was delayed almost three hours and the first set lasted only 27 minutes, before rain stopped play with Federer leading 5-2.

Federer served flawlessly early on, missing only nine serves in the first set and hitting seven aces.

Federer broke in the second game at the second break point with a passing shot. Leading 4-1, Federer allowed Hewitt to escape another break point in the sixth game but Federer hit three straight errors and Hewitt held.

After the rain delay, Federer closed out the first set and broke Hewitt in the fifth game of the second set for a 3-2 lead. Hewitt won only four points after that, popping a service return beyond the baseline on match point.

The final was less memorable than Federer's semifinal victory over Marat Safin on Saturday when Federer won a record-tying 20-18 tiebreaker in the second set.

It was the third tiebreaker to reach 20-18 since the system started in 1970. It equaled tiebreaker victories by Bjorn Borg in a 1973 first round over Premjit Lall at Wimbledon and by Goran Ivanisevic against Daniel Nestor in the 1993 U.S. Open.

Federer and Hewitt also met in the finals of the U.S. Open with similar results, Federer winning 6-0, 7-6 (3), 6-0.

"I think he played better in the U.S. Open," Hewitt said. "It's hard to fault the way he played at the start of the Open. I don't think I've ever seen any one play that good. He had spots like that today."

The tournament final was reduced to best of three sets instead of best-of-five because of the threat of more rain.





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