Federer beats Murray for 5th US Open, 13th major

September 8, 2008 5:28:08 PM PDT
No matter what anyone else said or thought, Roger Federer knew he was still capable of elite tennis. Knew he was still capable of winning Grand Slam titles.

Knew he was still Roger Federer.

Back at his best, back at the top of tennis, Federer easily beat Andy Murray 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 Monday to win his fifth consecutive U.S. Open championship and 13th major title overall.

Federer is the first man since Bill Tilden in the 1920s to win the tournament that many times in a row. He also moved within one major championship of tying Pete Sampras' career record of 14.

"One thing's for sure," Federer said in an on-court interview. "I'm not going to stop at 13. That would be terrible."

The victory clearly came as something of a relief to Federer, who has struggled during a lackluster-only-for-him season. He lost in the semifinals at the Australian Open, and to nemesis Rafael Nadal in the finals of the French Open and Wimbledon, meaning Federer was on the verge of his first year since 2002 without a major title. And his record streak of 237 consecutive weeks at No. 1 ended last month when Nadal surpassed him.

"I had a couple of tough Grand Slams this year ... so to take this one home is incredible," Federer said. "It means the world to me."

But the sixth-seeded Murray upset Nadal in the semifinals at Flushing Meadows to reach his first Grand Slam championship match, and Federer had no trouble this time - even though he had lost two of his previous three matches against the Scotsman.

"I came up against, in my opinion, the best player ever to play the game," said Murray, who tried to give Britain its first men's major champion in 72 years. "He definitely set the record straight today."

At 21, here's how young he is: When Federer was winning his first U.S. Open title in 2004, Murray was taking the U.S. Open junior trophy.

"I'm not as nervous any more, like in my first final," Federer said during a prematch TV interview.

Perhaps he was trying to plant doubt in Murray's head. The youngster was standing around the corner, waiting to walk out onto the court, probably already thinking about what it would feel like to be on that stage, with those stakes, against that opponent.

With his bushy hair peeking out from under his gray-and-white baseball cap, unshaven whiskers on his face, and that loping gait, Murray looks much like the college student he otherwise might be if not so talented at tennis.

Federer, coincidentally, was the same age when he played in his first Grand Slam final, back in 2003 at Wimbledon. Except Federer won that, and has kept winning major championship matches against everyone except Nadal.

Indeed, Murray can consider himself in good company: Federer's other four finals at Flushing Meadows came against four men who have won Grand Slam titles: Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and Novak Djokovic.

"I'm sure we're going to see much more of Andy in the future," said the second-seeded Federer, who dominated every facet of this final.

He accumulated a 36-16 advantage in winners, a 7-2 count in breaks of serve, and won the point on 31 of 44 trips to the net, compared with a 7-for-11 showing by Murray.

Murray - assured of rising to a career-best No. 4 in the rankings - stood about 10 feet behind the baseline to return serves, exactly the way he did in upsetting Nadal in their two-day, rain-interrupted semifinal over the weekend. And Murray did display flashes of the get-to-every-ball defense he used against Nadal, including one pretty flick of a lob by Federer with his back to the net.

But Federer, who might have benefited from an extra day to rest because his semifinal wasn't affected by Tropical Storm Hanna, was simply too much for Murray.


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