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Rediff.com  » Sports » Federer wrecks Agassi's dream

Federer wrecks Agassi's dream

By Bill Barclay
September 12, 2005 10:45 IST
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Roger Federer played dream-wrecker at Flushing Meadows on Sunday when he downed sentimental favourite Andre Agassi 6-3, 2-6, 7-6, 6-1 in the US Open men's singles final.

On the fourth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on New York, 35-year-old Agassi graced the city with a display that was in equal part stubborn and inspired before bowing to the superiority of the superlative Swiss.

Federer viciously punched the air with his racket when Agassi placed a backhand return long to celebrate his sixth grand slam title and what he said was his most special to date.

The world number one was almost apologetic at having deflated a raucous 24,797-strong crowd who had been living out their and Agassi's American dream when he led 4-2 in the third set.

"Unfortunately it happened again that I played my best in the final, as usual," said the 24-year-old triple Wimbledon champion.

"It is the most special one for me, playing Andre in the final of the US Open. He is one of the only living legends in tennis we still have."

Eight-time grand slam champion Agassi, playing in his 20th US Open and the oldest finalist since 1974, said: "Roger played way too good today. He is the best I have ever played against."

Compliments do not come any bigger from a man who has played with the likes of Pete Sampras, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg and Ivan Lendl.

Sunday's win meant Federer became the first man to win back-to-back Wimbledon and US Open titles in consecutive years since the game turned professional in 1968.

He has now won his last 23 finals, 11 better than the previous record.

He has won 71 of his 74 matches this year.

Sunday's win was his 35th consecutive hardcourt victory, breaking Sampras's professional era record of 34.

He also joined an elite club of only four men since records began in the 1880s to win their first six grand slam finals. In the professional era nobody has won more than their first three.

Even Federer does not know how he does it. "I amaze myself that I can back it up one tournament after another," he said. "I wonder why I always play so well, especially on big occasions."

Agassi said he did not intend to retire yet, despite the increasing demands of his family life and a chronic back problem that has prompted talk of him quitting this year.

"My intention is to keep working and keep doing what it is I do," he said. "The only thing better than the last 20 years will be the last 21 years."

He at least had the satisfaction of taking a set off Federer in a grand slam final, something that has only happened once before.

By the end, however, he was fishing about on court like a middle-aged Dad with a spade on the beach.

Agassi lost because, like all Federer's other rivals, he could not maintain his performance level at 100 percent.

Or as Agassi himself put it: "You need to play the craziest tennis you've ever played or he needs to be doing something off because you have to do it for such a long period of time."

For the 90 minutes that he did match Federer, though, Flushing Meadows was bedlam.

The 6-3 score suggests Federer took the first set with some ease but an obdurate Agassi saved seven set points before a big first serve from the Swiss finally did the trick.

NOT RATTLED

Chants of "An-dre, An-dre" rang out from the fans rammed inside the stands of Arthur Ashe Court and the old-timer stunned Federer with a break for 2-0 at the start of the second set.

Agassi levelled the match with some ease and the crowd began to get on top of the Swiss.

A cry of "miss it!" just as Federer hit a second serve over-stepped the mark and Federer was soon 4-2 down in the third set.

If the champion was rattled, though, it did not show.

Agassi had been enjoying most of the luck with netcords until that point but in the next game, facing a break point, one of his forehands sat up off the tape and Federer put away a simple backhand to break back.

It was the turning point. Agassi bravely saved four break points to hold for 6-5 but the yelps he was now emitting with each shot revealed his growing fatigue.

Federer held easily and the tiebreak was a no-contest. Agassi looked spent as the Swiss won it 7-1 in a manner reminiscent of his 7-0 tiebreak win over Australian Lleyton Hewitt in the semi-finals.

In the fourth set and it was hard not to feel sorry for the 1994 and 1999 champion as he was passed repeatedly.

One final, mis-timed backhand put him out of his misery and allowed the Swiss to turn triumphantly to his supporters in almost the only part of the stadium that had wanted him to win.

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Bill Barclay
Source: REUTERS
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