PARIS – 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 (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.
“It’s maybe my greatest victory, or certainly the one that removes the most pressure off my shoulders,” Federer said. “I think that now and until the end of my career, I can really play with my mind at peace, and no longer hear that I’ve never won Roland Garros.”
Midway through the match, a spectator ran onto the court and tried to put a hat on Federer. That only briefly delayed Federer’s march to the title.
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.
“You’re the last man to win all four Grand Slams,” Federer said. “Now I can relate to what it really feels like. … It feels good to be for once on the podium as the winner. It’s a magical moment.”
Tears ran down Federer’s cheeks as the Swiss national anthem played.
“Roger, really, congrats to you,” Soderling said. “You really gave me a lesson in how to play tennis today. And to me you’re the greatest player in history. So you really deserved to win this title.”
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.
Then came the day’s biggest surprise. The match was between points in the second set when a spectator waving a flag climbed through the photographer’s pit and onto Federer’s side of the court. (Read more.)
B.S. Report–You can stop the debate now…Federer is the best modern player in history. While Sampras may have been his equal on hard courts and grass, Federer is certainly the best modern all-court player in history.
Now, arguably slight past his prime, we’ll see if can win a few more slams before he’s through. He certainly should be competitive at Wimbledon for the next 3-5 years and, other than facing Nadal, he’s been virtually unchallenged at the French. With the pressure now clearly off his shoulders he should be able to play more loosely. Because of Nadal’s more taxing, physical style of play, it’s conceivable that Federer can even make another run at #1.