Federer digs deep to claim US Open hat-trick

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The Independent Online

The challengers come and go but the world's greatest player marches on. Roger Federer took everything a revived Andy Roddick could throw at him here last night and won the US Open for the third year in succession. Federer won 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 to claim the ninth Grand Slam title of his career and take another step towards the 14 held by Pete Sampras.

Although he had won 10 of his 11 previous matches against Roddick, including their last six, Federer knew this would not be straightforward and so it proved. The 24-year-old American, his fortunes revived by the coaching of Jimmy Connors this summer, made a splendid response after a poor start and pushed the Swiss all the way until losing his serve at the end of a desperately tight third set.

Roddick, a former world No 1 who won his only Grand Slam title here three years ago, had looked the player most likely to challenge Federer's supremacy until his fortunes took a dip after he lost to him in the Wimbledon final for the second year in succession 14 months ago.

He slipped out of the world's top 10 this summer for the first time for more than three years and it has taken the coaching of Connors to rekindle his flame. He had gone into last night's final on the back of a 12-match winning streak.

Federer's entourage were joined in the stands by Tiger Woods, whom he had met for the first time earlier in the day. If the world's best golfer had any advice for the world's best tennis player, it might have been the importance of making an early attack on the leaderboard. Roddick also knew that his thunderous serve and booming forehand would have to be in good shape from the start, but the early signs were not promising. By the end of the fifth game there were four aces and four forehand winners, but they had all been struck by Federer. Roddick, moreover, won only one of the seven points he played at the net.

From 5-0 down, Roddick at least made the first set respectable, winning his first game courtesy of three service winners and his second thanks to some loose shots from the champion, even if he was broken for the third time at 2-5.

Nevertheless, the mini-recovery was enough to restore Roddick's spirits and the American looked a different man in the second set. He played much more positively and his boldness in coming to the net started to pay off, thanks to confident volleys and better approaches. Roddick broke Federer to love in the opening game and served out for the set without having a break point against him.

The third set proved the key to the match. Federer saved four break points at 2-2, getting out of trouble with two aces and, in the following game, Roddick saved five. Both players then held comfortably until Federer broke at 6-5, Roddick putting a volley into the net.

With the ruthlessness of a Tiger, Federer went for the kill and won the first five games of the final set. Roddick held at 0-5, but Federer, who hit 17 aces in the match, served out for victory, falling to the floor in celebration after hitting a winning smash.

He joins Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe as the only players in the Open era to win the US Open three times. He is also the first player to win two Grand Slam titles (Wimbledon and the US Open) in three successive years. Only a brave man would bet against him rewriting more records.