Peerless display helps Federer to a perfect 10
Monday 23 October 2006
Fernando Gonzalez had lengthy treatment to his racket elbow after the second set of the Madrid Masters final here yesterday but the only way the Chilean would have won would have been if the trainer had sent him out with a machine gun strapped to his arm.
The man on the other side of the net was Roger Federer, who gave yet another wonderful display of his mastery of the sport. The world No 1 pummelled one of the game's form players to a 7-5, 6-1, 6-0 defeat in just an hour and 47 minutes to claim his 10th crown of the year.
It was Federer's 82nd win in 2006 - one more than 2005 - and he is the first player since Ivan Lendl in 1981-82 to win 80 matches two years in succession. His total of 10 titles is only one short of the number he has won in each of the last two years. Moreover, he has still to play in Basle this week, Paris next week and Shanghai, in the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup, next month.
The longer the year goes on the more remarkable Andy Murray's victory over Federer in the second round in Cincinnati in August becomes. It was Federer's only 2006 defeat other than in a final. Rafael Nadal, who beat him in four finals in the spring and denied him the Grand Slam by winning their French Open final, is the only other player who has beaten him this year.
Federer had dropped only four games in the semi-final against David Nalbandian, the world No4, but Gonzalez, who had not beaten the Swiss in seven previous attempts, matched him until the 12th game of the first set.
However, the whole match turned after the 26-year-old world No 10 put an easy forehand volley into the net at 15-15. The look of anguish on his face suggested that he knew the mistake would prove costly and, although Federer failed to convert his first set point, slipping while going for a backhand, he put away a clean smash for the second.
If Federer had given the impression that he was only in third gear, he swiftly moved into overdrive in a dazzling second set, which he won in 26 minutes. He made only two unforced errors in the set and won every point when his first serve went in.
By now it was all but exhibition tennis as Federer, hitting the ball with increasing freedom, treated the capacity crowd in the Madrid Arena to his full repertoire. Some of his forehand cross-court winners were breathtaking in their power and accuracy as he completed victory by winning 11 games in succession.
Gonzalez, who has reached the semi-finals or final of five of his last six tournaments and has given himself a fighting chance of making the Tennis Masters Cup, said that by the end Federer was playing better than he had done in any of his previous defeats to the world No 1.
Federer, who said he would have to check on his injured ankle before confirming his participation in his home city of Basle this week, was particularly pleased to have won sets 6-0 in both the semi-final and final. "I played well the entire tournament and I only got broken once all week," he said. "I really turned it on when I had to from the semis onwards so I'm really very happy."
l Peter Lundgren, who coached Federer until 2003, and has also coached the former world No 1 Marat Safin, has been appointed by the Lawn Tennis Association to work with Britain's Davis Cup team. The Swede assisted John Lloyd, the current British captain, during last month's victory over Ukraine. The two men will be at this week's Swiss Indoor tournament in Basle, where Andy Murray and Tim Henman have been drawn against the Argentine wild card Juan Martin del Potro and the Belgian Christophe Rochus respectively in the first round.
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