NEW YORK – Now, hopefully the questions will cease.
Roger Federer stemmed the tide of criticism Monday night by winning his fifth consecutive US Open and moving a step closer to Pete Sampras in the record book. And he says he’s not finished.
“One thing for sure, I’m not going to stop at 13,” Federer said of the number of Grand Slam tournament titles he has won. “One never stops at 13. That would be terrible.”
Most observers had suggested that Federer had slipped following 4½ years of dominating men’s tennis. After all, he only reached the semifinals of the Australian Open, was crushed by Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros and lost an epic battle to Nadal at Wimbledon. Why, he even lost his number one ranking to Nadal.
While every other player, with the possible exception of Nadal, would love to have that kind of year, Federer has created a much higher standard for himself.
That’s why Monday night’s 6-2 7-5 6-2 victory over Andy Murray was so satisfying to the Swiss star.
“This is a very special moment in my career,” Federer told the crowd at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. “To take this one home is incredible.”
While he was winning just about every title in sight, Federer presented a stoic appearance to the fans and his opponents. No more.
His strong ground strokes, precise volleys, big serve and emotions were all on display for the year’s final major. Murray, who reached his first Grand Slam semifinal earlier in the tournament, never had a chance, and he knew it.
“He played great today and missed very few balls,” Murray said of Federer. “Didn’t give me too many chances.”
And whenever Murray got a chance to get back in the match, Federer came up with a winning answer.
“He made very few mistakes,” said Murray, who went into the match with 2-1 lead in career meetings, including the last two times they had played. “The times I played him before he had given me a few free points. Today … he was able to dictate the points on my second serve, especially on the end when the wind was blowing into my face.”
Federer was sharp from the opening serve and began the match with a love game. Murray held to 2-2 before the tournament’s number two seed reeled off six straight games, closing out the first set and taking a 2-0 lead in the second.
Murray wasn’t going to go away, however. He broke right back, at love then held to even the set 2-2. By then Murray had settled down and unforced errors began creeping into Federer’s game.
Murray held at 15 for 5-5, the final point coming when he jumped on a service return and rifled a backhand cross-court. It was, in a way, his swan song, although no one knew it then.
The next time Murray won a game, he was trailing 6-2 7-5 5-0, Federer just one game from the victory.
Murray finally held, to the delight of the crowd, then broke Federer’s serve at 30. It was all to no avail.
“I had a great tournament,” Murray said. “I came up against the best player that has ever played.”
Federer found the angles and the answers to any problem Murray presented. Although Murray staved off the first match point, he couldn’t repeat that performance two points later.
As Murray slammed a forehand into the net, Federer sank to the court in joy, finally another Grand Slam tournament title in his trophy case. Plus, of course, a USD $1.5 million check to go along with a Lexis ISS sports car.
“I’ve been focusing on the positive,” Federer said. “To come away with the last Grand Slam of the year, sitting on this for four months is unbelievable.”
Federer is the first player to win five consecutive US championships since Bill Tilden won his sixth straight in 1925. And Federer becomes the only player to win five consecutive titles in two Grand Slam tournaments – the US Open and Wimbledon.
“I was that close to winning so many of the big tournaments this season, that I was never really anxious trying to win a particular one,” he said.
“I was disappointed not winning the Olympics (singles). I was disappointed losing the epic at Wimbledon, but this was as big of a goal maybe this season. I mean, going for five US Opens is probably the last time ever in my career I’ll have that opportunity, so to keep it alive and actually just keeping the streak like I did at Wimbledon is something I’m very, very happy about.”