Federer follows Borg's lead with 'incredible' feat
After winning Wimbledon for the first time last year, Roger Federer felt proud to be "side by side" with his hero, Bjorn Borg. Now Federer has kept in step with Borg by becoming the first player to win consecutive titles on three different surfaces, grass, clay and concrete, since the ultra-focused Swede accomplished the feat 25 years ago.
"This is something for the history books," Federer said in Toronto after adding the Canadian Masters to his recent successes on the Wimbledon lawns and the red clay of Gstaad in his Swiss homeland. "I think everybody knows how hard it is to win on a few surfaces in one year," he added. "To have done it back-to-back is incredible."
What is more incredible is that little more than a year ago, some observers doubted that Federer had the nerve to win a Grand Slam title - and here he is with two Wimbledons and an Australian Open to his name, continuing to set higher standards.
Federer's victory last Sunday against Andy Roddick, the US Open champion, in the Toronto final, 7-5, 6-3, came a week before the Swiss world No 1 was due to mark his 23rd birthday. The latest example of Federer's maturity, enabling him to blend his glorious skills with a strength of will, brought him his eighth singles title of the year.
With four months of the season still to run, incorporating the US Open at the end of the month, Federer's success rate is already the best since the extremely competitive Thomas Muster won 12 singles titles in 1995.
Going into his first-round match against Dominik Hrbaty at this week's Cincinnati Masters, Federer had won 23 consecutive matches - the most since Pete Sampras's 24 in 1999. His win against Roddick was his 10th consecutive victory in an ATP final.
Federer has won 31 of his last 32 matches. His only loss was against the Brazilian clay-court master, Gustavo Kuerten, at the French Open.
The only negative aspect of Federer's superiority over Roddick on Sunday for the men's game as a whole was that it stretched the gap at the top of the world rankings between the two players expected to create the sport's next big rivalry. Federer has now won seven of his eight matches against Roddick.
"I'd like to congratulate Roger," a good-humoured Roddick said, "but you are starting to become very, very annoying." The 21-year-old, whose power unsettled Federer at Wimbledon, knows he has time on his side but admits: "You have to win a few matches to have a rivalry."
Sunday's final had its drama. The first set seemed destined for a tie-break until Federer managed to break in the 12th game. When a Roddick forehand return landed long, Federer pumped his fist and Roddick slammed his racket to the ground.
Roddick, who had won his previous seven finals on concrete, made a determined effort to level the contest, only to find Federer growing in confidence. The Swiss lashed a cross-court forehand to break for 5-3 and then served out the match.
"I'm exhausted," Federer said. "It has been another great week for me, but I think Andy and I will play many more matches and you, Andy, will definitely get your share."
Along with his success on the regular tour, Federer would love to win gold for his country at the Olympics in Athens, remembering his compatriot Marc Rosset's triumph in Barcelona.
"[In Sydney] I lost in the semi-finals and the bronze medal match [against France's Arnaud di Pasquale] and it was very hard for me," he said. "I remember crying a lot after that. This time I hope my girlfriend and I can celebrate our fourth anniversary with me getting a medal."
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