Federer smooths way to Paris
By Barry Wood in Hamburg
Roger Federer warmed up for the French Open by stretching his record in ATP finals to 19 successive victories when he beat Richard Gasquet to win the Hamburg Masters.
Federer's surprise defeat by Gasquet in April led to him taking three weeks off. But he returned in style here, beating Gasquet 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 yesterday.
Gasquet, 18, who had to qualify for the tournament, was clearly tired after seven matches in nine days and he failed to show the form that took him to victory over Federer in the Monte Carlo quarter-finals.
Federer caught Gasquet cold and broke him in the second game with an overhead shot that clipped the net cord but fell in his favour.
Federer then struggled to maintain his advantage, fighting off three break points at 4-2 and then two more early in the second set.
Gasquet played just one poor service game, but crucially it came at 5-5 in the second set when he was broken to love, and Federer claimed the set by winning 12 of the last 13 points.
After no break points in the third set, Federer took the tie-break 7-4.
"To come through the week without losing a set is very nice, and it gives me great belief that I can also do better at the French Open," said Federer, who has gone no further in that tournament than the third round in the last three years.
"I have a good feeling, but feelings don't matter much once it starts. It's the real deal over five sets for two weeks. I cannot think about aiming for the title. The last few years have been too disappointing for me, and I really have to focus on the early rounds."
Despite his defeat, Gasquet will approach the French Open, which starts next Monday, in good spirits. "I have a lot of confidence now for Roland Garros, because I played some great matches here and today was a good experience for me," he said. "I was nervous at the beginning of the match but then it was OK. But I didn't return good in all the match. That was the key, I think."
Amelie Mauresmo retained her Italian Open title yesterday, beating Patty Schnyder 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, and, she hopes, putting herself in prime position for a decent run at the French Open.
Mauresmo arrived in Rome unsure of her form and fitness. A strained abdominal muscle had limited her clay-court season and a lack of direction had scuppered her results.
But back at her favourite city and her favourite event, she gradually began to find her rhythm.
From a miserably poor start against Schnyder, she began to apply the pressure in the second set. A furious argument with Romano Grillotti, the umpire, over a missed line call seemed to clear her head and from that moment on, Mauresmo was able to take control.
"I just took it as a relaxed tournament," she said. "And then finally, I'm here with the trophy on the last day. Maybe I should do that at every tournament I go to, especially the grand slams and the French Open."
The French Open, though, is where Mauresmo struggles most. Overwhelmed by the pressure of performing well in front of her home crowd, she has never got beyond the quarter-finals.
Winning two Italian titles from five finals over the last six years proves she can beat anyone on clay - now she just has to learn how not to beat herself when she gets to Roland Garros.
Federer determined to make amends
World number one Roger Federer has set his sights on winning the season's three remaining Grand Slam events.
The Swiss player, who has won six titles already this year, lost in the semi-finals of the season's first major, the Australian Open, in January.
But Federer said he intended to make amends for that defeat to Marat Safin.
"Wimbledon and Roland Garros are important goals but it would be great to win the final three Slams of the season," said the 23-year-old.
The first of those challenges will come at the French Open, which begins next Monday.
Federer has struggled at Roland Garros in previous years but will be top seed and has just won the Hamburg Masters.
I'm just very sentimental about Wimbledon more than any of the other tournaments
"If I win in Paris it means I have won every Slam, which is something only a few players can claim," he said.
After the French Open comes Wimbledon, and Federer admitted the London event was his favourite.
"I guess Wimbledon will always remain number one in my heart," said the Swiss star, who picked up his second title at SW19 last summer.
"It was where I won my first Grand Slam, and all my heroes have played there.
"I've cried there more than any other tournament. I'm just very sentimental about that tournament more than any of the others."
Federer, who has won 41 of his last 43 matches, is to be honoured at the World Laureus Sports Awards, which take place in Portugal on Monday.
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Published: 2005/05/16 17:24:10 GMT
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