Men's Tennis (ATP)
Roger that! Federer achieves Grand Slam glory

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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The great Roger Federer continued his assault on the tennis record book by winning his first-ever French Open title this past weekend.

Federer, still at only 27 years of age, is now tied with Pete Sampras for the all-time men's record in major titles with 14, and became only the sixth man in the history of the sport to capture the career Grand Slam, joining legends Fred Perry, Don Budge, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and Andre Agassi, who presented the super Swiss with the Coupe des Mousquetaires hardware on Sunday.

Sampras needed 52 Grand Slam events to win his 14 majors, while Federer required only 40. Federer also tied Ivan Lendl's record of appearing in 19 Grand Slam finals (14-5) and has performed in 15 of the last 16 major championship matches.

Federer handled upstart Swede Robin Soderling in the predictable men's final at Roland Garros. In fact, the only thing that was unpredictable on Day 15 of the fortnight was the goofball who jumped onto the court during the second set at Chatrier and tried to place a hat on Federer's head.

Roger Federer tied Pete Sampras with his 14th major title and became only the sixth man in history to capture a career Grand Slam.
Blame in on the a-a-a-a-a-absinthe (should be sung like the Jamie Foxx/T-Pain hit "Blame It").

Maybe if it was a crown, Federer would've let the excitable fan proceed.

Moving on.

Federer also ran his streak of winning at least one major title to seven years, which includes three occasions that have seen him corral three of the four majors in one campaign.

The masterful Federer is the reigning five-time U.S. Open champ and has reached the last five Grand Slam finals, going 2-3. The three losses came at the hands of his great rival, Rafael Nadal, who shocked the world by losing in Paris last week.

Nadal was the heavy, heavy favorite to five-peat at Roland Garros, where he'd been a perfect 31-0 lifetime before running into a hot Soderling two Sundays ago. Soderling pulled off one of the biggest upsets in tennis history by dismissing a (perhaps) fatigued Nadal in four sets in the fourth round in Paris. Nadal headed to Roland Garros having played a ton of clay-court tennis in preparation for Paris, and appeared a bit off against Soderling. The Spaniard wound up pulling out of the Wimbledon tune-up event in London this week, citing a knee injury.

The top-ranked Nadal was trying to become the first player ever to win five straight French Opens, but he'll have to settle for four straight titles, a record he still shares with my tennis idol, Bjorn Borg.

For the record, I have two daughters at home, both named Bjorn Borg.

That, of course, is not true. They are both named Bjorn Rune Borg.

Nadal beat Federer in the previous three French Open finals, including a lopsided title bout a year ago, 6-1, 6-3, 6-0. Nadal also beat the smooth Swiss in the semis there in 2005, which means he erased Federer four straight years on the crushed red brick.

Rafael Nadal suffered his first-ever loss at Roland Garros after winning four titles and his first 31 matches there.
Obviously, all the talk of Federer being the greatest of all-time, or GOAT if you will, has surfaced once again. All the numbers seem to point in his direction: tied for most majors...a career Grand Slam...three major titles in one year on three separate occasions...20 straight Grand Slam semifinals...etc., etc., etc.

But we also have to keep in mind that he's a disappointing 2-5 in his career Grand Slam finals against Nadal, and a dismal 7-13 overall versus the muscular Mallorcan.

And in the "Greatest Match of All-Time" a favored Federer came up a five-set loser against Nadal in last year's unreal Wimbledon finale.

Best ever?

Federer's accomplishments are the best-ever to this point, but don't we still have to wait and see how things play out in his series against Nadal, and how things play out for Nadal in general?

I'm not saying that Nadal's the best-ever here, I'm just saying that if someone (Federer) was the best ever, he wouldn't be 2-5 against his top rival in major finals. Would he?

Hopefully, we'll get to revisit the Nadal-Federer rivalry at Wimbledon in the next several weeks, as these two warriors have decided the last three Wimbledon titles among their record seven Grand Slam title clashes.

On the women's side in Paris, Dinara Safina continued her losing ways in major finals, having lost in a Grand Slam finale for a third time in three tries, this time to fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, who became a two-time major champion by easily straight-setting the world No. 1 Safina on Saturday, 6-4, 6-2.

World No. 1 Dinara Safina dropped to 0-3 in her career Grand Slam finals.
Safina had been playing lights-out tennis over the past month, including back- to-back clay-court titles in Rome and Madrid, with the Rome title coming at the expense of Kuznetsova in the final. The top-ranked Safina had been 20-1 on clay for the year, including a torrid 16-match winning streak, with the lone loss coming against Kuznetsova in a final in Stuttgart.

The 23-year-old Safina, of course, dropped to 20-2 on the dirt this year by coming up small against Sveta at RG. Safina was also routed by Serena Williams in January's Aussie Open final and was less-than-stellar against Ana Ivanovic in last year's French Open title match.

Heck, Safina also lost to fellow Russian Elena Dementieva in last year's gold medal bout at the Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Are we sure she's No. 1?

Of course not.

The 2009 French Open was chock full o' upsets, with none bigger than the Soderling-slaying-Nadal stunner. Aside from Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic also failed to represent the "Big Four" in Week 2. Murray actually did make it to the second week, but wound up losing to sturdy Chilean Fernando Gonzalez in the quarters, while Djokovic was a disappointing third-round loser against dangerous German Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Big women's upsets came when Wimbledon champ and former French Open runner-up Venus Williams lost to struggling Hungarian Agnes Szavay in the third round; the Olympic gold medalist and former Roland Garros finalist Dementieva was ousted by Aussie Samantha Stosur, in the third round; and former No. 1 and 2008 U.S. Open runner-up Jelena Jankovic succumbed to Romanian Sorana Cirstea in the fourth.

Svetlana Kuznetsova captured her second major title last week in Paris.
Former No. 1 superstar Serena Williams tried to reach a fourth straight major final, and capture a third straight, but was upended by a determined Kuznetsova in the quarters.

FYI: The steady Kuznetsova improved to 2-2 in her career Grand Slam finals, with her other victory coming at the 2004 U.S. Open. She was a French Open runner-up to Justine Henin in 2006.

Meanwhile, the aforementioned Ivanovic failed to defend her title in Paris, as she bowed out in the fourth round against rising Belarusian star Victoria Azarenka, who, I believe, is closing in on a major championship. A struggling Ivanovic has not been the same player since titling in Paris last year.

The big surprises on the women's side were the 30th-seeded Stosur and 20th- seeded Dominika Cibulkova, who both soared all the way into the semis, only to lose to Kuznetsova and Safina, respectively.

The biggest surprise on the men's side was Soderling, of course. The big- hitting Swede had never advanced beyond the third round in Paris and headed to this year's fortnight with a 3-5 record there. But he went 6-1 this year and had his best payday ever, collecting more than $700,000 as the runner-up.

Another surprise on the men's side was Andy Roddick, who actually made it into the fourth round before falling to flashy Frenchman Gael Monfils after suffering first- or second-round exits in his previous six trips to Paris. His previous best-ever showing was a third-round one in his first-ever French Open eight years ago.

And playing in their final French Opens, Russian Marat Safin and long-time French favorite Fabrice Santoro went out with whimpers, as Safin succumbed to unknown Frenchman Josselin Ouanna in the second round and Santoro, playing in his 20th French Open (17-20), gave way to pesky Belgian Christophe Rochus in the first. Both players had previously announced that they would retire from the ATP World Tour at the end of this season. The former world No. 1 and two- time major champion Safin got as far as the French Open semis back in 2002, while the crafty Santoro never got past the fourth round in Paris and exited the draw in round one no less than 10 times.

If you still crave Grand Slam tennis, Wimbledon will get underway June 22 at the All England Club, where Centre Court has been equipped with a retractable roof, guaranteeing at least some tennis on those famous rainy days there.

Ace or double fault? Send your comments to Scott Riley at sriley@sportsnetwork.com.
Scott Riley

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