Monday, January 30, 2006

Federer Masters Melbourne Again - 2006-01-29

Federer Masters Melbourne Again
Sunday, 29 January, 2006
by Bren O'Brien

Swiss No.1 seed Roger Federer has claimed the men's title at Australian Open 2006 after a brilliant comeback against unseeded Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis to win 5-7 7-5 6-0 6-2.

Federer claimed the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup for the second time in three years, but was forced to come from a set and a break down against Baghdatis who has captured the public's imagination in the past two weeks with his affable manner off the court and never-say-die attitude on it.

It was not the assured performance that has become expected of the Federer in the past two years, but the No.1 seed got better as the game wore on, using his full array of strokes to thwart the determined Cypriot, who had already knocked out No.2 seed Andy Roddick, the No.4 seed David Nalbandian and the No.7 seed Ivan Ljubicic on his way to the final.

Federer's Grand Slam record now stands at two Australian Opens, two US Opens and three Wimbledons, with the French Open the only major title to elude him. At 24, he remains on track to match Pete Sampras' record of 14 Grand Slam titles. Sampras had also won seven of his titles at the same age.

Both men dominated on serve early in the first set with only one point conceded by the server in each of the first four games. However, Baghdatis was able to pressure Federer on his serve in the fifth game. Uncharacteristically, the Swiss conceded three consecutive points with unforced errors and gifted the Cypriot a service break.

But Baghdatis also appeared in a charitable mood, handing back his break after a double fault. Keen to make up for his lost opportunity, the world No.54 continued to pressure Federer's serve, forcing the Swiss to bang down consecutive aces to win his next service game.

The Cypriot was finally rewarded for his persistence in the 11th game of the set. Federer led 30-0 but a series of unforced errors, including one on break point, gave Baghdatis the edge. Some powerful serves then set up two set points and when Federer netted his return, Baghdatis had taken stunning one-set lead.

Baghdatis took the momentum from the first set into the first game of the second set, breaking Federer, who conceded the game with his 19th unforced error for the match. The Swiss was staring down the barrel of a two-break deficit after an all-too casual shot from the net into an open court went wide in the third game.

It seemed to act as a wake-up call for Federer, and faced with the possibility of having to win the match in five sets, he saved two break points to keep himself in the set. He then pressured Baghdatis into conceding his next service game to get back on level terms.

Federer appeared to be under the greatest pressure on his serve, but when the break did come, it was against Baghdatis. Up 40-0 in the 12th game, the set looked destined for a tie-break, but Federer reeled off five consecutive points, including a set point which was over-ruled by the chair umpire, to level the match at a set apiece

Buoyed by his second-set heroics, Federer began the third set in fine touch, winning his own service game to love before breaking Baghdatis. Having romped to a 3-0 lead, Federer broke him once more, then held onto his serve in a tense fifth game. The world No.1 was starting to hit his straps and in just 24 minutes, took the third set thanks to a mis-hit backhand that landed on the line.

When Baghdatis cramped up during his first service game in the fourth, eventually conceding it to love, the writing was on the wall for the Cypriot. Federer had made it 11 games on end by the end of the third game, eventually conceded a game to Baghdatis but not before creating yet another break point.

A lesser opponent would have wilted under Federer's relentless pressure, but despite his body telling him to stop, Baghdatis fought on, ensuring the Swiss would have to battle for his seventh Grand Slam title. He held a break-back point in the seventh game, but couldn't capitalise. In the next game, Federer created two match points, he only needed one as Baghdatis hit a shot into the base of the net.

Current Match on Rod Laver Arena

Match Facts
• Federer had 11 aces to Baghdatis' 6
• Each player had 48 unforced errors
• There were 11 breaks of serve, eight to Federer, three to Baghdatis
• Federer won 142 to 116

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