Federer:An Unchallenged Champion or a Champion who Steps Up to the Challenge? ARTICLE
Federer remains an unchallenged champion
Federer sweeps Hewitt, reaffirming his status as world's top male player
The Desert Sun
March 21, 2005
INDIAN WELLS - At the start of the tournament, there was a buzz about an emerging rivalry among the world's top four players, all 25-and-under and all former No. 1 with Grand Slam singles titles among them.
After No. 1 Roger Federer took apart No. 2 Lleyton Hewitt 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 on Sunday in the final of the Pacific Life Open, maybe the real rivalry is between Federer and the record books.
It is Federer's second consecutive title at Indian Wells and runs his streak of victories in finals to 17 and improves his career record in finals to 25-8.
More importantly, Federer again established himself as the best tennis player on the planet.
"That's sort of the standard that he's put himself week in and week out now," Hewitt said. "It's not like he's doing something freaky out of the blue. He really is playing like that pretty much every week now.
"He's purely just playing on confidence, I think, a lot at the moment. He goes out there and he believes on the big points and the big shots are going to come off for him. The last year and a half, they have. He knows when to pull the trigger. He's sort of playing on autopilot a lot out there. He just has a lot of self belief in himself under the big situations right at the moment."
If the world's No. 2 player can only manage 10 games against Federer, then who can really challenge the Swiss star?
A year ago, Federer won three of the four Grand Slam titles - Australia, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Although he lost in the semifinal of the Australian Open, Federer is 26-1 on the year. The Pacific Life Open is his seventh title in his past eight tournaments.
If no one stands up to him, then a number of records will soon be in jeopardy.
Among those records:
Weeks at No. 1, which Sampras holds at 286 weeks.
Grand Slam titles, which Sampras holds at 14
Career titles in the open era, which Connors holds at 109
ATP Masters Series titles, which Agassi holds at 17.
For Federer to challenge some of those records, a key would be playing at a high level over a long period of time.
Hewitt, who was No. 1 for 80 weeks, knows how difficult that can be.
"It's tough to play week in and week out," Hewitt said. "He's done it as well as anyone I've seen in the past."
Federer was gracious in victory, saying he knew early Hewitt was struggling with his movement and thought it could have been a difference. However, Federer has now won the last seven meetings between the two.
Federer said he is impressed with what Bjorn Borg did, winning Wimbledon five consecutive years, and Pete Sampras holding onto the No. 1 ranking for six years. However, Federer said records are not his goal or focus, even though people have talked about him having a chance to win all four Grand Slam tournaments in one year.
"If it happens, it's extraordinary, but if it doesn't I still believe I'm having a good career so far," Federer said. "I'm still far away from actually hanging up the racket against the wall and walking away from tennis.
"I still got a lot of tennis left in me. I just hope I'm still healthy. Then I can maybe break a couple of records, we'll see."
The book on Federer is he's got a great serve that sets up his game, which is built on versatility. However, Hewitt said there's one element to Federer's game that gets overlooked.
"His moving is superior," Hewitt said. "I don't think people give him enough credit for his moving around the court. He makes you go for that little bit extra every time because he really does cut off the angles extremely well."
Although Federer made this tournament look easy, having never lost a set, he said he can breathe a sigh of relief.
"The pressure's off and I'm relieved," Federer said. "I didn't sleep that well overnight somehow because you know Lleyton is coming up. You (hope) you can defend your title, hope that the streak is going to last. Once everything's over, it's a huge relief within myself."