Cincinnati: August 14 - 20

June 27, 2006 05:51 PM
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images© Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
MASON, Ohio (AP) -- No matter what he tries, Andy Roddick can't figure out a way to beat the world's top player.

Unflappable Roger Federer won his 22nd straight final on Sunday, beating the exasperated American 6-3, 7-5 for the Cincinnati Masters championship and his ninth overall title this season.

Federer improved to 10-1 against Roddick, who tried every tactic but still came up short. Federer has won the last six times they've met, including the last two Wimbledon finals.

The world's top-ranked player for the last 81 weeks, Federer heads into the U.S. Open fit, relaxed and on a roll. Roddick has a new worry.

His right foot started bothering him late in the final set, and he needed a timeout before the last game to get treatment. Roddick winced, groaned and covered his face with a towel while a trainer stretched and rubbed the bottom of the foot.

He returned and moved gingerly, getting only two points while Federer broke his serve to close it out. Federer got $400,000 for the win, Roddick $200,000 for finishing second.

Federer's tour dominance is captured by remarkable numbers -- a 54-3 match record this season and 138-9 in last two years with 20 titles; 28 straights wins on hard courts; an 18-match winning streak; 81 weeks at No. 1, the seventh-longest uninterrupted stay atop the ATP list.

Perhaps the most amazing statistic: He has won his last 22 appearances in tournament finals, where he's always at his best. He was again Sunday against a player he has bedeviled over the years.

Federer countered Roddick's serve-and-volley strategy by hitting returns at his feet as he came to the net, leaving him in a bad spot. Roddick double-faulted to lose his serve and fall behind 3-2 in the opening set, then uttered a profanity as he left the court.

He knew he was in trouble already.

Federer kept the pressure on, making few mistakes and pouncing on every opening. He broke Roddick again to finish out the first set, a bad omen for the American. Roddick had lost only two games on his serve all week; now, he'd lost two in one set.

By contrast, Federer won 14 consecutive points off his serve during one stretch. The streak ended when Roddick broke him with a backhand passing shot to go up 3-2 in the second set.

"Then Roger started being Roger again,'' Roddick lamented.

An energized Federer broke him right back. In a telling moment, Roddick hit a 125 mph first serve, and Federer shot it back down the line for a forehand winner that set up the break point and put him in line for the win.

Federer will be the overwhelming favorite at the U.S. Open, coming in healthy, confident and rested. After winning his third straight Wimbledon title, Federer took off to rest and let a sore foot heal.

It only took him a couple of matches in Cincinnati to get back to the top of his game.

"I really started playing fantastic tennis,'' he said.

Roddick came into the match hoping that his revamped game would be good enough to end his misery against Federer. Roddick has spent the year developing his game -- changing pace on his ground strokes, coming to the net more often, building stamina for long rallies. The tactics worked in a semifinal win over Lleyton Hewitt, another player who had dominated him.

Roddick served 24 aces and left some skin on the court while pulling out a two-set win over Hewitt. Roddick came away with nasty scrapes galore -- two below the right elbow, another on his right hand, yet another on his knee -- from the rough-and-tumble semifinal.

All that got hurt on Sunday was his foot and his pride.