INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- Roger Federer is all alone at the
top -- by several notches.
The world's top-ranked player, looking virtually unstoppable
these days, rolled to a straight-sets victory over Lleyton Hewitt
on Sunday to successfully defend his Pacific Life Open title.
Federer broke the second-ranked Australian's serve in the
opening game and was in control the rest of the way in a 6-2, 6-4,
Federer is on a roll that has carried him to 42 wins in his past
43 matches, and seven victories in eight tournaments. He has
another streak going in finals, where he's won 17 in a row.
"It's always been my dream to be the best. Now I am and I am
enjoying it," Federer, a 23-year-old from Switzerland, said. "The more
victories you get, the better you feel."
Although Hewitt was slowed by sore toes, he gave Federer credit
for playing a great match.
"That's sort of the standard that he's put himself in week in
and week out," Hewitt said. "It's not like he's doing something
freaky, out of the blue.
"If you want to be the best player in the world, you've got to
look at where the benchmark is. And he's set it pretty high."
Hitting powerful, accurate groundstrokes that kept his
Australian opponent scrambling back and forth at the baseline,
Federer mixed in winning volleys, drop shots and the occasional
Hewitt said both his big toes began hurting the previous night,
when he beat Andy Roddick in a grueling semifinal that went three
sets and three tiebreakers.
"I probably wouldn't have won anyway," Hewitt said of the
final. "But I wasn't moving 100 percent."
Federer picked up on that.
"I see very quickly when my opponent has got some sort of a
problem," he said. "It definitely changed my setup against him."
Federer said Hewitt normally would prefer to get him into long
rallies but instead he often went for quick winners this time.
"I got that feeling very quickly, and I just had to really
focus on my serve," Federer said.
There still was one memorable, 45-shot rally, when Federer was
holding break point in the second game of the second set.
Toward the end of the rally, Federer chased down a shot near the
net, sprinted back and across the court to return a lob, came up
again to hit another shot, then scurried back once again to flick
the ball over his shoulder to return another lob.
Hewitt then hit a drop shot just over the net far to Federer's
right. It looked to be a winner, but Federer raced forward,
stretched as far as he could and hit the ball back. Hewitt went
sprawling to his right and volleyed for a winner -- finally.
Both players were out of breath, but smiled broadly. The crowd
roared its approval, then gave the players a standing ovation.
Federer said it was "an unbelievable point."
"One of my best in my life," he said. "During a final against
Lleyton, that was fantastic, and that it didn't finish in an error.
We were both tired after that rally."
Both he and Hewitt were impressed by the standing ovation,
saying it was very unusual for a single point in the middle of a
"Maybe after you win a Davis Cup final or something, in five
sets," said Hewitt, who went on to win that game. "But not
normally after a point, especially when neither of you is from
Federer ended the match with his 15th ace -- to Hewitt's four --
and raised his arms high and beamed. He hit the ball into the
cheering crowd, with his usual one-handed backhand.
Federer's title was his fourth of the year. He extended his
winning streak over Hewitt to seven in a row, including last year's
U.S. Open final.
His only loss since he began that tournament was by Marat Safin
in this year's Australian Open semifinals. Safin then beat Hewitt
in the final.
The 24-year-old Hewitt, who held the No. 1 ranking in 2002 and
2003, lost for just the third time in 21 matches this year.
The men's final was changed to a best-of-five sets format this
year, and Federer still needed just an hour and 52 minutes to
finish it. A year ago, the best-of-three final lasted only 65
minutes -- Federer beat Tim Henman 6-3, 6-3.
Kim Clijsters beat Lindsay Davenport 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 for the
women's title at Indian Wells on Saturday.