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Federer routs Blake to win Masters Cup championship

SHANGHAI, China -- James Blake learned what has become a
fact of life on the tennis tour.

"Obviously, we're all chasing Roger," he said. "It's no
secret. He's playing head and shoulders above the rest of us."

Looking more imposing with every tournament, Roger Federer
concluded another overpowering season Sunday by routing Blake 6-0,
6-3, 6-4 for his third Masters Cup title.

The Swiss star has been ranked No. 1 since Feb. 2, 2004, and
already has enough points to ensure he'll break Jimmy Connors'
record of 160 consecutive weeks atop the rankings by the end of
February. Only two players (Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray) beat Federer
this year.

He finished the season with 12 titles and 16 finals appearances
from his 17 tournaments, winning $8.34 million. Already the first
player to exceed $7 million in prize money in a season, Federer
earned $1.52 million for his unbeaten run in Shanghai.

"To finish it off by winning the Masters Cup, the world
championship so to speak, it's the perfect ending to an incredible
season," Federer said. "There's not much more I could have
done."

No argument from Blake, who needed 34 minutes to even get on the
scoreboard. After the first set, Blake sat in his courtside chair
with his shaved head in hands, most likely wondering what to do
next.

"I did my best, and he was just a level above," Blake said.

The American will finish the year at a career-high No. 4 after
entering the Masters Cup as the eighth-ranked and last qualifier.

He beat No. 2 Rafael Nadal and No. 3 Nikolay Davydenko in the
round-robin stage and then ousted defending champion David
Nalbandian in the semifinals. Facing Federer, though, was another
matter.

"Although it looked like I got just destroyed out there, I feel
like I'm still one of the best in the world," Blake said. "That's
why I'm not ashamed of anything that happened."

Less than 24 hours after Federer dismantled Nadal in the
semifinals -- giving him back-to-back wins against the 20-year-old
Spaniard after five consecutive losses -- he took Blake apart.

Blake failed to hold serve until the second game of the second
set. Even then he had to save two break points.

"The first set he killed me," Blake said. "I thought I got
better -- I actually finally broke him in the third set."

Even Federer, who is 22-2 in Masters Cups, was taken aback by
the thoroughness of his victory.

"It's quite surprising to come out and beat a fellow top 5 in
the finals so convincing," he said. "I had to laugh at one stage
how well I was playing.

"I always came up with a great answer, I was in control pretty
much all the time. Everything I wanted to do worked."

Federer reached the finals at all four majors this year, and
only his loss to Nadal at the French Open deprived him of a season
Grand Slam. He finished the year with a 92-5 record and a 29-match
winning streak. Connors' mark is particularly appealing to him.

"That is definitely one of the big records so far in my
career," he said. "I'm waiting for that date to come along, and
then I'll celebrate it, not right now."

Blake quickly discovered that the all-or-nothing approach that
worked for him earlier in the tournament did not unsettle Federer.
The scoreline became so lopsided that the crowd cheered raucously
for all of Blake's points. By the third set, even Blake was
applauding some of Federer's winners.

"I appreciate the support you gave me when Roger was giving me
a lesson," Blake told the crowd at Qi Zhong Stadium. "I'm honored
to be considered a colleague of his."

Blake's only break came when Federer was serving for the match
at 5-2. But that merely delayed the inevitable by minutes. Federer
served out at love the next time, setting up triple match point
with a backhand down the line and winning when Blake netted a
return.

"I've probably run out of adjectives to describe him on the
court to talk about his excellence," Blake said. "He's just
unbelievable."

Blake said he was proud of his year, coming back from
career-threatening injuries and the death of his father in 2004 to
be into the top five.

"After this whole week, I know playing against these top
players, that I feel like I belonged," he said. "Maybe next year
I'll get closer. ... I hope one of these days I get a win over
him."

Jonas Bjorkman and Max Mirnyi combined for their first Masters
Cup doubles title, defeating Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor 6-2,
6-4.