Federer beats Hewitt to win third major of year
Posted: Sunday September 12, 2004 6:53PM; Updated: Sunday September 12, 2004 9:57PM
NEW YORK (AP) -- Well, there's at least one person who isn't trying to figure out whether Roger Federer could one day complete a Grand Slam or match Pete Sampras' career record of 14 major titles: Federer himself.
The Swiss star has established himself as by far the best in the game right now, and that's good enough for him.
Federer became the first man since 1988 to win three majors in a year, thoroughly outclassing Lleyton Hewitt 6-0, 7-6 (3), 6-0 Sunday to add the U.S. Open title to those he took at the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
"I got the start I wanted, I was dreaming of," Federer said. "It's a very demanding sport. The season's long. There's not much time off. This is why I'm grateful every tournament, every Grand Slam I win. You never know which is your last."
There hadn't been two shutout sets in the event's championship match since 1884, and Federer had an answer for everything thrown at him by the fourth-seeded Hewitt.
The only time Federer was stumped? When asked whether going 4-for-4 in the Slams is possible. He paused, brushed a strand of hair off his forehead, sighed, paused again, then came up with this: "I don't know what to say."
Then, asked about the Sampras' major total, Federer said: "It's not a goal for me to beat his record. For me, this is not motivation. This would just kill me."
Mats Wilander won three Slams in a season 16 years ago, and Jimmy Connors did it in 1974. The last man to complete the Grand Slam was Rod Laver in 1969.
"He's a little better than everyone else at everything right now," Wilander said after watching the match on TV at home in Idaho. "Physically and mentally he has the advantage over the other players. At the moment, I don't see anyone who can beat him."
Federer, 23, is at his best against the best, when it counts the most. He's the only man in the Open era to win his first four major finals, he's won his last 11 tournament finals, and he's won 17 straight matches against top 10 players. Federer beat past No. 1s and Grand Slam champions in each major final this year: Marat Safin at the Australian Open, Andy Roddick at Wimbledon, then Hewitt.
Federer led the 2001 Open champ in winners (40-12), aces (11-1), and service breaks (7-1), and won the point on 31 of 35 trips to the net.
Is there a player who could have defeated Federer on Sunday?
"I don't think anyone in the actual tournament," Hewitt said. "Maybe Pete Sampras."
Especially in the 18-minute opening set, it was truly remarkable to see Federer dominate every facet against the pugnacious, backward-cap-wearing, "Come on!"-yelling, fist-pumping Hewitt. The Australian hurt himself by double-faulting to lose each of his first two service games -- but that might have been a function of facing Federer.
"He's so good on the defense and so good at the return of serve that he's forcing the other player mentally to get a little bit of scaredeness: 'I've got to serve a little better or Roger's going to knock it by me.' 'I've got to make a better approach shot or he's going to pass me,"' said 1946-47 U.S. Open winner Jack Kramer, inducted Sunday into the tournament's Court of Champions.
"He's getting errors because of the threat of his skills."
With his fluid, all-court game and cool demeanor, Federer is 64-6 with nine titles on three surfaces this season. And he did it all without a coach: Federer fired Peter Lundgren in December and never replaced him. The one Grand Slam blemish on Federer's resume this year is the French Open, where he lost in the third round to three-time champion Gustavo Kuerten.
"I don't want to put pressure on myself by saying, 'You know, next year, your only focus is the French Open,"' Federer said. "I have enough years left for to maybe accomplish that as well. But that's not my priority right now."
He never before made it beyond the fourth round at Flushing Meadows, leading some to wonder whether the wind, wild fans and roaring airplanes might provide too many distractions for the fastidious Federer.
But he dealt with 40 mph gusts and partisan rooting while beating Andre Agassi in a two-day quarterfinal, dismantled Tim Henman's serve-and-volley style in the semifinals, then stopped Hewitt, who hadn't lost a set all tournament.
Paraphrasing Frank Sinatra, Federer said: "To me, it seems like if you can handle New York, you can handle anything."
"To me, not even in my wildest dreams I would have thought, 'I'm going to win the U.S. Open.' Now that I did it, it's still tough for me to believe," Federer said. "At the end of the year, I'll be looking back and thinking, 'How did I do this?"'
His run of four of the past six Slam titles is the best since Sampras won four of five in 1993-94.
"It's an incredible effort, what he's done," Hewitt said. "I don't think people probably realize how hard it is."
All of the impressive numbers might fill a list that other athletes would tack to a wall as a reminder of goals. But unlike Tiger Woods' pursuit of Jack Nicklaus' accomplishments, Federer doesn't look too far forward.
"The road is long, you know. Don't forget, there's a lot of hard work you have to put into it, a lot of sacrifice," he said. "I'm still all the way at the beginning."