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French Open victory gives Roger Federer career Grand Slam, tie with Pete Sampras for most majors

PARIS (AP) — Roger Federer beat Robin Soderling, tied Pete Sampras and won the French Open at last.

Undeterred by an on-court intruder, Federer beat surprise finalist Soderling 6-1, 7-6 (7-1), 6-4 on Sunday to complete a career Grand Slam and win his 14th major title, matching Sampras' record.

On his fourth try at Roland Garros, Federer became the sixth man to win all four Grand Slam championships.

When the stylish Swiss hit a service winner on championship point, he fell on his knees to the clay that had vexed him for so long, screamed and briefly buried his face in his hands. He was teary by the time he met Soderling at the net, and fans gave Federer a standing ovation as he raised his arms in triumph.

The supportive crowd included Andre Agassi, the most recent man to complete a career Grand Slam when he won at Roland Garros 10 years ago. Agassi presented Federer with the trophy.

"I'm so happy for you, man," Agassi said.

Playing in cool, windy weather and occasional rain, Federer raced to a quick lead, sweeping the first four games. Soderling appeared nervous at the start of his first Grand Slam final, and Federer kept him scrambling with penetrating groundstrokes to both corners and an occasional drop shot.

Federer's progress to the title was briefly delayed in the second set. The match was between points when a spectator waving a flag climbed through the photographer's pit and onto Federer's side of the court.

Federer backed away toward the backstop, but the fan caught up with him and tried to put a hat on Federer's head. Security personnel seemed slow to react before chasing the man to the other side of the court, and he was tackled, then carried out.

There was silence from the stunned crowd, then a chant of "Ro-ger! Ro-ger!" when the episode ended. Federer adjusted his headband, Soderling gave him a thumbs-up sign and play resumed.

Soderling's strokes steadied, and he pushed the second set to 6-all. But Federer played a brilliant tiebreaker, hitting aces on all four of his service points, and Soderling could only smile ruefully.

Federer broke again to start the third set and kept that lead the rest of the way. He never lost serve, and despite the difficult conditions, he had more winners than unforced errors — 41 to 24.

The No. 23-seeded Soderling had eased Federer's path by upsetting four-time defending champion Rafael Nadal in the fourth round last Sunday. Nadal beat Federer at Roland Garros the past four years, including three consecutive times in the final.

Despite Nadal's surprising departure, Federer's journey to the title wasn't easy. He rallied from a two-set deficit in the fourth round to beat Tommy Haas, and survived another five-setter against Juan Martin del Potro in the semifinals.

Federer won his 14th Grand Slam championship at age 27. Sampras, who never reached a French Open final, was 31 when he won his last major title. Federer will try for No. 15 beginning in two weeks at Wimbledon, which he has won five times.

He has also won the U.S. Open the past five years, and he has three Australian Open titles.

For his latest victory, Federer won $1.5 million. Soderling received $750,000.

French Open victory gives Roger Federer career Grand Slam, tie with Pete Sampras for most majors 06/07/09 [Last modified: Sunday, June 7, 2009 12:01pm]

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