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Roger Federer flashes championship form of old, wins U.S. Open final

NEW YORK — No matter what anyone else said or thought, Roger Federer knew he was still capable of elite tennis.

Knew he was still capable of winning Grand Slam titles.

Knew he was still Roger Federer.

Federer easily beat Andy Murray 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 on Monday to win his fifth consecutive U.S. Open championship and 13th major title overall.

Federer is the first man since Bill Tilden in the 1920s to win the tournament that many times in a row. He moved within one major championship of tying Pete Sampras' career record of 14.

"One thing's for sure," Federer said. "I'm not going to stop at 13. That would be terrible. … I felt like I was invincible for a while again."

Federer has struggled at times this season, when he was on the verge of his first year since 2002 without a major title. His 4½-year reign at No. 1 ended last month.

"I had a couple of tough Grand Slams this year … so to take this one home is incredible," Federer said after stretching his U.S. Open winning streak to 34 matches. "It means the world to me."

Federer acknowledged some irritation with an onslaught of letters, e-mails, care packages and, yes, instructional DVDs during his slump.

"People come out of the closet and think they can start helping me now. It's just a pain," he said. "This sort of puts them to rest a little bit and calms down the phones at my parents' (home) a little bit.

"I guess some players get a kick out … wanting to prove people wrong and stuff. I'm not that type of person, to go through life wanting to prove myself."

The sixth-seeded Murray was in his first Grand Slam final.

"I came up against the best player ever to play the game," said Murray, 21. "He definitely set the record straight."

"I'm sure we're going to see much more of Andy in the future," the second-seeded Federer said.

He accumulated a 36-16 advantage in winners, a 7-2 count in breaks of serve and won the point on 31 of 44 trips to the net.

Murray, whose ranking rises to No. 4, threw a scare into Federer only once, taking 11 of 12 points to go from 2-0 down in the second set to 2-all and love-40 on Federer's serve.

Federer saved the first break point, and on the second, a 14-stroke rally that ended with Murray missing a backhand. TV replays showed one of Federer's shots should have been called out, which would have given Murray a 3-2 lead.

"Not necessarily would have won the match or anything, but it would have given me a bit of confidence," Murray said.

Federer stayed steady and held serve.

"That was key," said Federer, the only man to win five consecutive titles at two major tournaments. "After that, I began to play freely, the way I usually do."

In the next game, Murray began clutching at his right knee and looking at his support group in the stands, which included his mother, two coaches and two trainers. Murray said the knee had no bearing on the outcome.

"He made very few mistakes," Murray said. "The times I played him before, he had given me a few free points."

Instead of heading into the offseason wondering what went wrong, Federer, 27, can look ahead with optimism.

When the men met at the net, Murray shared a thought.

"I told him that he had a phenomenal year," Murray said, "regardless of what anyone said."

News trumps tennis on TV

Tennis fans who tuned into Tampa Bay's Ch. 10 at 5 p.m. Monday to see the men's U.S. Open final between Roger Federer and Andy Murray saw someone else instead: Dr. Phil. Ch. 10, the local CBS affiliate, chose to not broadcast the men's final on its regular channel, offering the match on its high-definition station. Pete Nikiel, the station's vice president/marketing, said the decision was made to provide an expanded hourlong 6 p.m. news. "It was not an easy decision, and it was a no-win situation," Nikiel said. "But we felt it important to provide our viewers with our news coverage, particularly with the hurricane (in the gulf) and because fans who wanted to see the U.S. Open still could watch tennis by either going to our HD channel or to two places on the Internet." Ch. 10 notified viewers throughout its news broadcast where the Open could be seen.

Tom Jones, Times staff writer

Roger Federer flashes championship form of old, wins U.S. Open final 09/09/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 10, 2008 8:11am]
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