Federer cruises to 10th Grand Slam singles title

The men's top seed extended his streak to a career-best 36 wins.
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- 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 (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.
"Equaling records, doing something that hasn't been done for a long time, it's really nice, no doubt," Federer said. "All I care about in the end is to hopefully hold that trophy. Of course, now that it's over, it's great to think, 'Wow, you know, not having dropped a set.' It's quite amazing."
Reduced to tears
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 semifinals.
He met with Federer in the locker room after the semifinal and said he had little doubt the 25-year-old Swiss star could beat Pete Sampras' 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.
Seven straight finals
He tied Jack Crawford's 73-year-old record by reaching his seventh consecutive final in majors.
"If somebody would have told me I'd win 10 Grand Slams from mid '03 till today, I never would have thought there was any chance," he said.
Even before the tournament he had enough points to ensure he will break Jimmy Connors' 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."
Dangerous opponent
Federer saw Gonzalez coming. The Chilean beat former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt and Masters Cup finalist James Blake before pounding Nadal in straight in the quarterfinals.
"I knew he was a dangerous player, and the way he's been going through the draw made me wonder what did he do different this time around," Federer said. "Especially the win against Nadal -- it kind of shocked me. ... I didn't believe he was going to beat Rafa so easy."
Then Gonzalez routed Haas 6-1, 6-3, 6-1.
Federer considered changing strategy against Gonzalez.
"In the end I said, 'You know what, I've beaten him nine times, so just take it easy and play your game, and hopefully it is going to work out,"' Federer said. "It did."
Gonzalez had the most vocal cheering section Sunday, many with painted faces chanting and blowing whistles and twirling flags as if they were at a soccer game.
Federer, as usual, had thousands of backers, too. One fan, dressed in Swiss red and white, carried a sign that summed up the general feeling: "Federer is betterer." In the end, he was.
"I have to congratulate again Roger," Gonzalez said. "He's on the way to be maybe the best player ever. He is a great champion who played a really good match today, all week -- almost all his life. So I can take a lot out of this tournament."
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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