Federer hits 50
World tennis number one Roger Federer has won his 50th tournament title by beating James Blake 6-1, 6-4 in the Cincinnati Masters final.
The 26-year-old Swiss star on Sunday became the fifth-youngest player in history to reach the milestone and only the ninth overall in the Open Era (since 1968) to win at least 50 tournaments.
"It's not a goal I set for myself in my career, but it's definitely a nice number to get to, especially in terms of titles," Federer said. "It's really a lot, you know, so it's great."
Given the way he's playing, he's eyeing the US Open - which starts on August 27 - as number 51.
Federer almost reached 50 a week earlier in Montreal, where he lost the title match to Novak Djokovic in a third-set tiebreak.
Eighth-ranked Blake was playing in only his second Masters championship match.
"Just about everything [Federer] does is pretty impressive," Blake said. "So, yeah, 50 titles at any age is impressive. Fifty titles at 26 is incredible."
Dressed in all-white on a muggy, 33-degree Celsius afternoon, Federer extended his mastery of Blake – and all Americans, for that matter.
Federer improved to 7-0 against Blake, who has won only one of their 19 sets. And the Swiss star has won 35 straight matches against Americans since he lost to Andy Roddick in the semifinals at Montreal in August 2003. During that span, different Americans have risen and fallen, but none has broken through.
"He's good enough to find just about any which way to beat you," Blake said. "There's always something for him to fall back on."
"A very special number"
Blake was playing catch-up right from the start. Federer served a pair of aces to open the match, then broke Blake's serve in the next game to take control. Blake had three break chances in the fifth game of the opening set, which lasted 20 points and ended with Federer's forehand volley.
Opponents rarely get such chances against Federer. Deflated that he let it slip away, Blake was broken to love in the next game. Federer then served it out.
Blake overcame four double faults to hold serve in the opening game of the second set, but was on the defensive for the rest of the way. Federer broke him to go up 4-3, then fought off a couple of break points in the next game to retain control.
Finally, he raised both arms in celebration after his ninth ace of the match gave him the title and, in his words, "a very special number".
Björn Borg won his 50th title when he was 23 years, and seven months. Jimmy Connors was four months older when he got to the mark. John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl were 25 when they did it.
The crystal trophy that Federer received on court will end up in his home in Oberwil, canton Basel Country, where he has a special room. "It's grown to about office size," he says.
The Cincinnati tournament has in recent years been a good barometer heading into the US Open. Federer won the grand slam title easily two years ago, then went on to get the second of his three straight US Open titles.
The Swiss star has momentum in his quest for a fourth straight US Open title, but there's reason for others to see opportunity. Federer wasn't on top form this week, making a lot of unforced errors. He needed three sets to beat Nicolas Almagro and a resurgent Lleyton Hewitt to reach the title match.
Using that as a guide, this Open could be more wide open.
"A lot of people have tried to say at times that he looks beatable, then he goes out and shows that he's not beatable," Blake said. "Then he goes into a grand slam and he plays even better."
swissinfo with agencies
(As of August 20, 2007)
Singles record: 528 wins, 131 losses
Singles titles: 50
Career prize money: $33,240,078
Most singles titles
109: Jimmy Connors
94: Ivan Lendl
77: John McEnroe
64: Pete Sampras
62: Guillermo Vilas
61: Björn Borg
60: Andre Agassi
53: Ilie Nastase
50: Roger Federer
167: Martina Navratilova
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