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By Matthew Cronin, USOpen.org
Roger Federer might soon own every record in the sport, but he put a huge one on the board by winning the 2007 US Open title with a dramatic and hard-fought, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory over Serb Novak Djokovic that might not be broken this century: going back-to-back-to-back-to-back at Wimbledon and the US Open four consecutive times.
The great American Bill Tilden, who won the U.S. Championships five times in a row from 1920-25, couldn't even do that.
But leave it to Federer, the cool-handed Swiss, who might constantly look self-assured but, when pushed to the wall, responds like an alley cat.
“New York has definitely grown on me the last few years,” he said. “I think especially since that famous final against Agassi here a few years ago I started to really love this tournament. I realize actually what kind of a big-time event this is, you know, with 24,000 people in the stadium, the city. Just the difficulty to win here. I wasn't aware of it in the very beginning when I came on tour really. For me, the US Open is the second biggest one we have on tour. To have won those two the most times, it's just incredible for me.”
Djokovic held five set points against the great Swiss in the first set and another two in the second, but the 20-year-old played nervously, while Federer knew that, if he could ride the upstart's waves, his chances would come, too.
They did, and Federer cashed in, winning his 12th Grand Slam title.
Throughout the match, Djokovic matched Federer off the ground, served just as effectively and even pushed him off the court. But Federer never allowed the Serbian to get completely comfortable, as he hammered his forehand and did a fine job with his approach shots and closing out points at the net.
The Serbian broke Federer to 6-5 in the first set when the Swiss missed a forehand. It appeared that Djokovic would seize the momentum and race away in to the second set, but, admittedly, he began to rush.
Federer whacked a forehand cross-court winner on Djokovic's first set point, but then on his next three, Djokovic missed two backhands and a forehand. On the fifth one, Federer crushed a forehand return winner.
Djokovic defaulted and then double faulted to hand the break back to 6-6.
In the tiebreaker, Djokovic fell apart at 3-3, when he double-faulted, erred on a backhand and then saw Federer crush a service winner. Federer committed a forehand error on his first set point, but Djokovic then double-faulted to hand him the set.
“I was quite nervous, a lot of pressure, and I knew that I had to make some shots,” Djokovic said. “Obviously that was mistake because I just needed to calm down and wait for my chances, which I didn't. I made a lot of first-shot unforced errors in that game. I think that was pretty crucial. I think I was mentally weaker today on the important points than he is mentally stronger. So I think it was my mistake and my weakness today. It was my first Grand Slam final for me, 23,000 people, and everybody expected a nice match. So I had quite a lot of pressure. But I enjoyed it. It was an amazing experience for me.”
Djokovic put himself in a prime position again in the second set, when with Federer serving at 6-5, he held another two set points. Federer ripped a 126-mph ace on the first one, but on the second, Djokovic missed a forehand winner by a millimeter. He challenged the call, but was turned back.
"I cannot believe it,” Djokovic said. “I was asking the crowd what I need to do. Nobody could give me any advice. I could continue by my own.”
Federer put it into fifth gear in the tiebreaker, contesting one of his most impressive sudden death's ever.
He won six of the seven points with winners, including four service winners that Djokovic barely get his racket on, and ended the tiebreaker with an inside-out forehand winner and backhand down-the-line pass.
Djokovic courageously battled throughout the third set and even held three break points in the fifth game, but the writing was clearly on the wall.
He served to stay in the match at 4-5, but on the final point of the contest, his attempt at a drop shot fell lazily into the net.
“My next book is going to be called, '7 Set Points,'" the delightful and crowd-pleasing Djokovic said. “I'm joking.”
After winning the match, Federer slid to his knees and roared.
With his 12th Grand Slam title, Federer passed Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver and tied Roy Emerson. Next up is American Pete Sampras, with 14. By this time next year, Federer might have already tied that mark and could go into Flushing Meadows looking to break it.
“I think about it a lot now," said Federer, who in his last four US Opens, has beaten Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and Djokovic for the title. “In the beginning, I felt pushed a little bit in the corner, put under pressure about the situation because you don't win Slams like that, it's just too tough. I feel these two-and-a-half weeks, it's so draining. I'm exhausted in the end. It's a great relief, just to finally maybe have a good night's sleep without thinking about the upcoming five-setter I have to play. So I know how tough it is. So to come so close already at my age is fantastic, and I really hope to break it.”