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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Roger Federer claims historic Paris win

Roger Federer beat Robin Soderling in straight sets to win his first French Open and equal Pete Sampras's record of 14 Grand Slam titles.

World number two Federer becomes only the sixth man to have won each of the four Grand Slam tournaments.

The 27-year-old Swiss produced a near-faultless display in testing conditions to dominate Sweden's Soderling, a shock finalist, from start to finish.

He wrapped up a 6-1 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 victory in one hour and 55 minutes.

Federer joins Fred Perry, Don Budge, Roy Emerson, Rod Laver and Andre Agassi as the only men to have won all four Grand Slam titles and was presented the Coupe des Mousquetaires by Agassi.

"It was probably my greatest victory, I was under big pressure," said Federer. "I did it and it's phenomenal. It was great to be on the podium as a winner for a change.

"Andre said it was my destiny to win this and that I deserved it."
Roger Federer


Soderling admitted: "Roger was too good for me today, he played much better. He is a worthy winner and for me he is the best player in history. He gave me a lesson in how to play tennis."

Federer has now won five Wimbledon titles, five US Opens, three Australian Opens and one French Open, a triumph that will go some way to silencing those who claimed his career was on the slide amid the rise of world number one Rafael Nadal.

The former world number one was appearing in a record-equalling 19th Grand Slam final, his fifth in succession and, remarkably, his 15th in the last 16 Grand Slam tournaments.

Federer had lost each of the last three finals to Nadal and the Spaniard's shock defeat by Soderling in round four suggested another huge upset was possible.

But the Swiss looked a picture of calm from the moment he set foot on Court Phillipe Chatrier and, cheered on by large sections of the crowd, made a blistering start.

An understandably nervous-looking Soderling, contesting his first Grand Slam final, went wide once and long twice before double-faulting to give his opponent an effortless break of serve in game one.

Federer backed that up with a majestic service game, which he held to love with one booming ace and the most delightful sliced backhand which died as soon as it touched the red dirt.

A second break was swift in its arrival - Soderling netted a backhand to give Federer two break points and then left a forehand that landed on the baseline to fall 3-0 behind.

With Soderling's unforced error-count rising sharply, Federer eased through another service game and, while not needing to find top gear, he was already oozing confidence.

A morale-boosting hold kept Soderling in contention at 4-1 but the Swede was showing none of the aggression that saw him defeat several top class clay-courters, including Nadal, en route to his first tour level outdoor final.

Another hold to love put Federer within a game of the 23-minute opening set and he took it at the second time of asking by unleashing a rasping cross-court backhand to pass Soderling at the net.

With many of the ebullient spectators chanting Federer's name at the changeover, it was easy to understand why Soderling had his head buried in a towel.

Federer opened the second set with a double-fault but normal service was quickly resumed and a thumping ace down the 'T' helped him take game one with little reason for concern.

Soderling's disappointing movement and shot selection meant he was only rarely likely to get the better of Federer from the baseline, so it was fortunate for the 24-year-old that he found some rhythm on serve and was able to level at 1-1.

After Federer moved 2-1 ahead, Soderling powered his way to 2-2 by holding to love.

But the Swiss's concentration seemed to be affected at the beginning of that game when he was confronted by a spectator, who breached the security and appeared to wave a flag in Federer's face before belatedly being wrestled to the ground.

By this point the sunshine in which the match started had given way to cloudy skies, a fairly strong wind and gentle rainfall, and break-point opportunities were few and far between.

At 4-3 up, Federer cranked up the pressure and although Soderling held serve with a thunderous inside-out forehand winner, the 6ft 4in right-hander was barely given a sniff in game nine.

Soderling twice kept his composure when serving to stay in the set but Federer was in a class of his own during the tie-break.

He gained the first of three mini-breaks at 1-1 and, aided by four magnificent aces, left Soderling to chase shadows.

The third set was essentially decided when Soderling double-faulted to gift Federer a break in game one.

Soderling, who has now lost all of his 10 matches against Federer, had nothing to lose and engineered break points in games four and 10.

The second of those came as Federer was serving for the match but Soderling failed to capitalise and when the Swede netted a forehand return, Federer's long wait for the Roland Garros title was over.

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