MASON, Ohio -- Roger Federer raised both arms triumphantly
when his ace finished it off. After years of having everyone else's
number, he had a special one of his own.
Fifty for Federer.
The Swiss star reached another measure of tennis greatness on
Sunday, winning his 50th tournament title by beating James Blake
6-1, 6-4 in the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters.
At age 26, he became the fifth-youngest player to reach 50, and
only the ninth overall in the Open Era -- since 1968 -- to win so
"It's not a goal I set for myself in my career, but it's
definitely a nice number to get to, especially in terms of
titles," Federer said. "It's really a lot, you know, so it's
There could be a lot more to come. Given the way he played on
Sunday, nobody would be surprised if the U.S. Opens winds up being
51. The higher the stakes, the better he plays.
Federer struggled early in the week and needed a pair of
three-set victories to reach the title match against Blake, a
27-year-old American playing in only his second Masters Series
Once Federer got there, he was vintage.
"Just about everything he does is pretty impressive," Blake
said. "So, yeah, 50 titles at any age is impressive. Fifty titles
at 26 is incredible."
Federer almost got the noteworthy win a week earlier in
Montreal, where he lost the title match to Novak Djokovic in a
third-set tiebreaker. This time, he was determined to get it.
Dressed in all-white on a muggy, 92-degree afternoon, Federer
extended his mastery of Blake -- and all Americans, for that matter.
Federer improved to 7-0 against Blake, who has won only one of
their 19 sets -- off a tiebreaker in the semifinals at the U.S. Open
last year. He's not the only hard-hitting American who can't figure
out how to handle's Federer's overall excellence.
Federer has won 35 straight matches against Americans since he
lost to Andy Roddick in the semifinals at Montreal on Aug. 9, 2003.
During that span, different Americans have risen and fallen, but
none has broken through.
"He's good enough to find just about any which way to beat
you," Blake said. "There's always something for him to fall back
Blake was playing catch-up from the start. Federer served a pair
of aces to open the match, then broke Blake's serve in the next
game to take control. Blake had three break chances in the fifth
game of the opening set, which lasted 20 points and ended with
Federer's emphatic forehand volley.
Opponents rarely get such chances against Federer. Deflated that
he let it slip away, Blake was broken at 0-40 in the next game.
Blake was on the defensive the rest of the way. Federer broke
him to go up 4-3, then fought off a couple of break points in the
next game to retain control.
Finally, he served his ninth ace of the match to win the title
that was, in his words, "a very special number."
Bjorn Borg won his 50th title when he was 23 years, 7 months
old. Jimmy Connors was four months older when he got to the mark.
John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl were 25 when they did it.
The crystal trophy that he received on court will wind up in his
home in Oberwil, Switzerland, where he has a special room -- "It's
grown to about office size" -- to display those 50-plus mementos.
They're kept behind glass "so you don't have to dust them off all
the time," Federer noted.
Gives him more time to work on dusting off the competition.
In recent years, the Cincinnati tournament has been a good
barometer heading into the U.S. Open. Federer won it easily two
years ago, then went on to get the second of his U.S. Open titles.
Last year, Roddick emerged from his season-long funk in
Cincinnati, won the tournament and took a lot of confidence into
the Open, where he reached the title match before losing to
Federer has momentum in his quest for a fourth straight U.S.
Open title, but there's reason for others to see opportunity.
Federer wasn't in peak form this week, making a lot of unforced
errors. He needed three sets to beat Nicolas Almagro and resurgent
Lleyton Hewitt to reach the title match.
Using that as a guide, this Open could be more wide-open.
Or, if Sunday is an indication, it might end up as another
addition to that glassed-in trophy case.
"A lot of people have tried to say at times that he looks
beatable, then he goes out and shows that he's not beatable,"
Blake said. "Then he goes into a Grand Slam and he plays even