ATP Tennis 360

January 31, 2010 1:23 PM

Roger Federer makes 16

b_federer_31_13.jpgThere's a new law in tennis, valid since 2004: Grand Slam events are won exclusively either by Roger Federer or by the player who can beat Roger Federer, No way out.

The Swiss champion has today conquered his 16th Grand Slam title, just two of the record holders, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, out of 22 finals played, becoming just the fourth man in history to win the Australian major four times, after Roy Emerson, Agassi (who was also the last, before Roger, to have won the title as a father), Jack Crawford and Ken Rosewall.

Going into the match, Andy Murray knew he would have needed an efficient and consistent first serve and knew he should have abandoned the fence-sitter attitude he showed in his first Grand Slam final, against him, in the 2008 Us Open.

But today, and for the whole tournament, Roger was simply unplayable. He dominated the event since the first points, except the first set of the debut match, lost to Igor Andreev, and the first set and a half of his quarter against the new "Mr. Personality", Nikolay Davydenko.

Murray seemed to get nervous in the first stages, as it was in Flushing Meadows, where he arrived enough self-satisfied for the epic two-days long winning semi against Rafa Nadal and with low batteries for the title-match. Federer broke in the second game with a blistering forehand winner, but "C'mon Andy" broke back immediately, sealing the game with a whipped forehand pass.

Murray abandoned the unnatural mask of passivity he chose to wear during the most of last season searching, in vain, to improve his results, and came back in delivering all his bright variety of strokes and solutions. Or at least he tried to do so, because Federer was overwhelming in the first two sets: he slowed down from the advantage side, usually his less preferred diagonal, with backspin backhands to backhand, before punishing him with deep forehand winners, one of which gave him the key break at the eighth game letting him seal the set in 43 minutes with 19 winners to 10.

The early stages of the second set sued the same scenario. Federer broke in the third game battering a series of forehand winners forcing Murray to net a backhand. But Murray, even on the ropes, refused to go down, and recurred to all his Scottish pride to save multiple break points: two in the fifth and four in the seventh game, helped in a case by Federer who saw an otherwise winning forehand landing long.

But at 5-4 Federer brought up three set points with his seventh ace of the match and was up two sets to none in an hour and a half.

Roger is a frontrunner, as he recently said in the post-match press conference after his victory over Lleyton Hewitt, in Melbourne, but Murray tried everything to let his third set run far from idillic.

He considerably upped his standards and broke in the fifth game with a whipped forehand. The crowd, enough clearly supporting Federer, cheered when he broke hoping to see a longer show. But the Swiss broke back when it really counted, while Murray was serving for the set at 5-3 delivering a crosscourt return just on the line and clinching it when the Dumblane native netted a backhand. Then, after two traded serve holds, the Swiss with an ace out wide forced the set to a tiebreak.

Murray had the best start, and went 6-4 up, but he newly testified the difference between an actual champion and a developing one. Federer saved the first set point with an astonishing forehand, but on the second he netted an easy forehand. And, like Andy Roddick in the recent Wimbledon final's second set, he sent wide a backhand volley after a breatless rally and with it he saw the third set point blowing in the wind. Federer wasted a pair of match points, Murray didn't manage to play a lifted ball and, at 12-11, a backhand mistake led Federer lifted bhis 16th Slam trophy after two hours and 41 minutes.

In tears, Murray said during the award ceremony: "See, I can cry with him but unfortunately I can't play like him".

Not yet. But the future seems to be on his side.

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