Federer holds back the tears

2007-01-29 09:07

Melbourne - Roger Federer held back the tears this time. He didn't hold back much else at the Australian Open.

Federer underlined his 10th Grand Slam singles title by winning 21 straight sets, saving a set point in Sunday's final before finishing off Fernando Gonzalez 7-6 (7/2) 6-4 6-4.

The last man to go through a major without dropping a set was Bjorn Borg at the 1980 French Open. The only other man to win the Australian Open without dropping a set was Ken Rosewall in 1971, although he had to play only five matches.

Rosewall was in the crowd Sunday night, and Federer gave him a nod in a composed victory speech. It was the mere presence of another Australian great, Rod Laver, that reduced Federer to tears the previous year at the trophy presentation.

"I can't force them out every year!" Federer said of his sobbing celebration in 2006, when he accepted the trophy from Laver. "I had a wonderful tournament. A great end. Just because there were no tears doesn't mean it doesn't mean anything to me."

Laver, the last man to win the Grand Slam - all four majors in one season - made the trip from California to see Federer dismantle Andy Roddick 6-4 6-0 6-2 in the semi-finals.

He met with Federer in the locker room after the semi-final and said he had little doubt the 25-year-old Swiss star could beat Pete Sampras's record 14 Grand Slam singles titles, and just about every other tennis record as well.

"The best way to beat him would be to hit him over the head with a racket," Laver joked in a newspaper column.

Federer improved his streak to a career-best 36 wins, became the first man in the Open era to twice win three straight majors and has collected six of the last seven Grand Slam titles.

He tied Jack Crawford's 73-year-old record by reaching his seventh consecutive final in majors.

Even before the tournament he had enough points to ensure he will break Jimmy Connors's record of 160 consecutive weeks atop the men's rankings by the end of next month.

Although he knows he's only one-quarter of the way there in 2007, a season Grand Slam is his objective. He was two sets from that last year, when he won the first set of the French Open final before losing in four to Rafael Nadal.

That was his only defeat in the last seven majors. Nadal was 26-0 on clay last season and is on a record 62-match streak on the surface.

"French Open is obviously the next big one for me," he said. "I've made one step further every year now. Went from semis to finals. Got closer to Rafa, as well."

That and three other losses to Nadal were about the only downsides of his 2006 season - he was 91-1 against everyone else and picked up 12 titles.

"I think it's going to be a very interesting French Open for me... hopefully win the title," he said. "That will be a dream come true. That's the only way I can make this season a better one than last year. Otherwise it won't be possible."

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