Federer trounces Blake in Masters Cup final

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The Independent Online

Roger Federer overwhelmed James Blake, claiming his third Masters Cup title 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 in yesterday's championship match.

Top-ranked Federer rounded off another dominating season with 12 titles from the 17 tournaments he contested and $8.34m in prize money for 2006.

He earned $1.52m for his unbeaten run at the season-ending championship in Shanghai.

Blake beat No. 2 Rafael Nadal and No. 3 Nikolay Davydenko in the round-robin phase and ousted defending champion David Nalbandian in the semifinals, but was no match for Federer.

It took Blake 34 minutes to get on the scoreboard, finally holding serve in the second game of the second set - even then he had to save two break points.

Getting behind the underdog in a lopsided match, the crowd cheered raucously for Blake's points, even those off Federer's errors.

Federer had 22 errors and 41 winners, against Blake's 18 clean winners and 27 unforced errors.

Federer was broken for the only time when serving for the match at 5-2 in the third.

He served out at love the next time, setting up triple match point with a trademark backhand down the line and clinching it with a powerful serve that Blake could not return.

It was Federer's 29th consecutive win, improving him to 92-5 for the year and to 22-2 at the Masters Cup. His only Masters Cup loss since the start of the 2003 tournament was in last year's final.

Blake qualified for the season-ending tournament for the first time and distinguished himself with three good wins.

The 26-year-old American entered with a No. 8 ranking, but will finish the year at a career-high No. 4.

He quickly discovered that the all-or-nothing approach that worked earlier in the tournament did not unsettle Federer, who had progressed to the final with a straight sets semifinal win over his 2006 nemesis, Nadal.

What worked against the others, missed or got returned with interest from Federer.

Nadal had five consecutive wins over Federer, including four in finals this year, until the Swiss star broke that sequence in the Wimbledon final.

His only other loss was against Andy Murray at Cincinnati in August.

Blake, now 0-6 overall against Federer, was overcome in the 26-minute opening set.

He sat in his courtside chair with his shaved head in hands, likely wondering what to do next.

In the second set, he had a breakpoint chance in the third game and rifled a deep return at the baseline. But Federer picked up the half-volley on his backhand side and turned it into a winner, leaving Blake shrugging at the net.

By the third set, even Blake was applauding some of Federer's winners.

"I appreciate the support you gave me when I was playing great, or when Roger was giving me a lesson," Blake told the crowd at Qi Zhong Stadium. "I'm honored to be considered a colleague of his."

Earlier, Jonas Bjorkman and Max Mirnyi combined for their first Masters Cup doubles title, extending a drought for Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor at the season-ending tournament.

Second-ranked Bjorkman and Mirnyi broke third-ranked Knowles and Nestor twice in the first set and once in the second for a 6-2, 6-4 victory.

It was a second title for Bjorkman, who won the then season-ending ATP Tour World Doubles Championship with Jan Apell at Jakarta in 1994. Knowles and Nestor were back in the final for the first time in eight years.

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