Wed, Nov 24, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Federer Express sets new Open-era record

ON TRACK Switzerland's Roger Federer demolished Lleyton Hewitt on Sunday to win the ATP Masters Cup, beating John McEnroe's 1984 winning percentage record

AFP , HOUSTON, TEXAS

Swiss Roger Federer poses with his trophy on Sunday after winning the final of the Tennis Masters Cup in Houston, Texas.

PHOTO: EPA

World number one Roger Federer set an Open-era record by winning his 13th final in a row, defeating Lleyton Hewitt 6-3, 6-2 on Sunday to capture his second consecutive ATP Masters Cup crown.

Federer fired nine aces and waited through a 78-minute rain delay to capture his 11th title in an amazing season that included his first US Open and Australian Open titles and his second consecutive Wimbledon crown.

"It's just an unbelievable end to a fantastic season for me," Federer said.

"This has been kind of a fairy-tale ending for me to again leave for vacation with great feelings and great memories," he said.

Federer's winning streak in championship matches broke the mark he shared with John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg for consecutive finals triumphs. The record run began last year at Vienna.

The 23-year-old Swiss star won US$1.52 million and his 17th match victory in a row since a second-round exit at the Athens Olympics.

Federer finished the year 74-6, equal with American Andy Roddick for most match wins this year. There has not been a better winning percentage for a year-end world number one since John McEnroe went 82-3 in 1984.

"All the records I broke or equalled or whatever I did this year have just been fantastic," Federer said.

"The last year and a half for me I've really started to go like a rocket. This is a great end," he said.

The victory was Federer's 23rd consecutive triumph over a top-10 foe, a streak that began with his unbeaten 2003 Cup title effort. Federer matched Ivan Lendl's 1986 to 1987 feat of unbeaten back-to-back title efforts at the event.

Federer, who never allowed Hewitt a break point, suffered a torn left thigh muscle last month. But the Federer Express showed no sign of slowing as he dominated his highest-rated rivals this week.

"I was injured and came back strong and was able to win this title. It's almost too much to ask for," Federer said.

Third-ranked Hewitt, the 2001 and 2002 Masters Cup winner, would have overtaken American Andy Roddick to finish second in the year-end rankings by taking his fifth title of this year. He settled for US$700,000 in defeat.

Federer beat the Australian for the sixth time in a row, all this year, and leads their career rivalry 8-7. He ousted Hewitt in the Australian Open round of 16, Wimbledon semifinals and US Open final.

"He has really cleaned me up this year. I'll go back to the drawing board and hopefully I can get him next year," Hewitt said.

Even Federer is mystified about how he has dominated Hewitt, winning 15 of their past 16 sets.

"The last three matches have been quite one-sided. I'm surprised myself because he's a great player and I expect him to be even tougher next year," Federer said.

Rain delayed the start by three hours and dismal forecasts promp-ted organizers to trim the final from a best-of-five sets to a best-of-three, the first time in 25 years such a format was used at the season-ending event.

Federer led 5-2 when rain returned and halted play after 30 minutes. When the match resumed after the delay, Federer held to capture the first set, and ultimately the match.

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