Top-Ranked Federer Wins 3rd Masters Cup


Monday, November 20th 2006, 9:49 am
By: News On 6


SHANGHAI, China (AP) _ Roger Federer overwhelmed James Blake, claiming his third Masters Cup title 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 in Sunday's championship match.

Top-ranked Federer rounded off another dominating season with 12 titles and 16 finals appearances from the 17 tournaments he contested, winning $8.34 million.

Already the first player to exceed $7 million in prize money in a season, Federer pocketed $1.52 million for his unbeaten run at the season-ending championship in Shanghai.

``To finish it off by winning the Masters Cup, the world championship so to speak, it's the perfect ending to an incredible season,'' Federer said. ``There's not much more I could have done.''

The comprehensive win over Blake was icing on the cake, he said.

``It's quite surprising to come out and beat a fellow top 5 in the finals so convincing.''

Federer has enough entry rankings points that he doesn't have to win another match between now and March to beat Jimmy Connors' all-time record for most consecutive weeks atop the men's rankings.

He has been No. 1 since Feb. 2, 2004, already 143 weeks. By Feb. 26, he'll be up to 161 weeks, beating Connors' mark of 160, according to the International Tennis Federation.

``That is definitely one of the big records so far in my career,'' Federer said. ``I'm waiting for that date to come along, and then I'll celebrate it, not right now.''

Blake beat No. 2 Rafael Nadal and No. 3 Nikolay Davydenko in the round-robin phase and ousted defending champion David Nalbandian in the semifinals, but he was no match for Federer.

It took Blake 34 minutes to get on the scoreboard, finally holding serve in the second game of the second set _ and even then he had to save two breakpoints.

Getting behind the underdog in a lopsided match, the crowd cheered raucously for Blake's points, even those off Federer's errors.

Federer had 22 unforced errors and 41 winners, against Blake's 18 clean winners and 27 unforced errors.

He broke Federer for the only time when the Swiss star was serving for the match at 5-2.

Federer served out at love the next time, setting up a triple match point with a trademark backhand down the line and clinching it when Blake netted a return.

``He played too good. I've probably run out of adjectives to describe him on the court to talk about his excellence,'' Blake said. ``He's just unbelievable. Steps it up even more in finals.''

It was Federer's 29th consecutive win, improving him to 92-5 for the year.

Blake qualified for the tournament for the first time and distinguished himself with three good wins.

The 26-year-old American entered with a No. 8 ranking, but will finish the year at a career-high No. 4.

He quickly discovered that the all-or-nothing approach that worked earlier in the tournament did not unsettle Federer, who had progressed to the final with a straight sets semifinal win over his nemesis, Nadal.

Nadal beat Federer in four finals this year, depriving him of a Grand Slam with victory at the French Open.

Like Nadal, Blake (now 0-6 overall against Federer) was overcome in the first set.

Blake sat in his courtside chair with his shaved head in hands, likely wondering what to do next.

In the second set, he had a breakpoint chance in the third game and rifled a deep return at the baseline. But Federer picked up the half-volley on his backhand side and turned it into a winner, leaving Blake shrugging at the net.

By the third set, even Blake was applauding some of Federer's winners.

``I appreciate the support you gave me when I was playing great, or when Roger was giving me a lesson,'' Blake told the crowd at Qi Zhong Stadium. ``I'm honored to be considered a colleague of his.''

Blake said he was proud of his year, coming back from career-threatening injuries and the death of his father in 2004 to be into the top five.

``Although it looked like I got just destroyed out there today, I feel like I'm still one of the best in the world,'' he said. ``I never would have had the confidence to even think about uttering those words a couple years ago.

``That's why I'm not ashamed of anything that happened out there today, because I did my best, and he was just a level above.''

Earlier, Jonas Bjorkman and Max Mirnyi combined for their first Masters Cup doubles title, extending a drought for Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor at the tournament.

Second-ranked Bjorkman and Mirnyi broke third-ranked Knowles and Nestor twice in the first set and once in the second for a 6-2, 6-4 victory.

It was a second title for Bjorkman, who won the then season-ending ATP Tour World Doubles Championship with Jan Apell at Jakarta in 1994. Knowles and Nestor were back in the final for the first time in eight years.