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As is his wont, Federer let loose the pent up emotions once the match was over - all the pressure, the expectations, the trials all came gushing out - today though was such a day, a day for the outpouring of emotions. Appropriately it was Agassi (the last man to complete the career Grand Slam back in 1999 at Roland Garros) who presented Federer with the Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy, and it was noted so by Roger when he addressed the crowd. Soderling was effusive in his praise calling Federer "the greatest player to play the game". Federer addressed the crowd in French and confessed he "couldn't stop smiling". He made special note of thanking the spectators who had adopted him as a favoured son right through the tournament.
Federer won this match without difficulty as he played top-notch tennis and Soderling never quite touched the levels he had earlier in the week. But all credit to Federer - he never allowed Soderling to settle down. Never game him the kind of high ball that he likes to hit. In a display of vintage tennis he once again showed off the serve and the forehand that have carried him through his career. He hit 16 aces and 58 winners in his victory. A word on Soderling - he's been reviled for not being a Mr. Nice Guy but today he was gracious and respectful and was every bit the sportsman.
Roger Federer hit the ground running, as he raced away with the opening set breaking Soderling thrice in the process. Much of the pre-match talk focused on this being Robin's first final and it did seem to affect him. His groundstrokes had a distinctÂ absence of zing & timing and his general demeanour was a little bit nonplussed with the goings-on. Federer for his part played with an assurance suggesting that this was a regular affair - to be fair to the man, over the last few years it has. Federer served with assurance and played with composure breaking Soderling in the opening, 3rd and 7th games to take the first set 6-1 in just 23 minutes.
There were three important tactics Federer employed that won him that first set and were to be his pillars right through the match. First, Federer was serving extremely well, never facing any really threatening situations. Next, was the way he kept wrong footing Soderling, using shots that were played behind him and also the drop shot to great effect. This kept Soderling floundering exploiting the relative lack of footwork and movement of the Super-sized Swede. The final one was Federer attacking the Soderling forehand forcing him to not camp in his favourite backhand corner and doing the dual job of keeping him guessing and preventing him from getting into the rhythm he likes.
Soderling though refused to be counted out, and put the first set behind him playing a bit more "Soderling-like" in the second. In a shocking moment, with Soderling serving in the 4th game of the second set, an intruder with a flag bounded onto court and attempted to put the flag around Roger's neck before security got him with a nice little rugby tackle. He looked a tad unnerved by the incident, and no surprise he played his loosest in the match in the points that followed. Normalcy resumed though and Soderling finding the range on his serve held onÂ for 4-3. Through all this, the rain that had been hanging around, threatened to disrupt the flow of the match. With little to no pressure on his own serve however, Federer wasn't being threatened. The set went to a tie-break with Soderling showing signs of the forehand that had brought him this far. Federer, stepped it up in the tie-break like champions tend to do, and served 4 aces to takeÂ it 7-1.
Things weren't going the Swede's way today and the third set also got off on the wrong foot. Perhaps still disillusioned with the tie-break, perhaps still a little tight, a double fault and a weak forehand error of a floating Federer return handed the champion the break and a foot firmly into the home stretch of his campaign. Federer faced a couple of tricky games on his way but put the one break point opportunity that Soderling created, firmly away and held on with characteristic gusto and class to finally claim the one prize that has eluded him for 11 years since turning pro.
Federer joins Andre Agassi, Don Budge, Fred Perry, Rod Laver and Roy Emerson as a winner of all four Grand Slam titles and now heads into Wimbledon with 14 slams under his belt. He will look to go one better than Pete Sampras there. On the hallowed turf ,where, in 2003, it all began.
R.Federer d R.Soderling 6-1, 7-6, 6-4
File Photograph Copyright: MadridÂ Open
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