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Federer: Multitalented and hard to handle
By KEITH NIEBUHR
Published April 3, 2005
KEY BISCAYNE - He can hit any shot.
At seemingly any time.
Right now, he looks unflappable and, well, at times unbeatable. Statistics nothing short of remarkable illustrate Roger Federer's dominance. Twenty-one straight victories. Forty-seven wins in his last 48 matches.
A 31-1 record this year, the best start in men's tennis since John McEnroe went 39-0 in 1984. None of that, however, tops this:
Entering the championship match at the Nasdaq-100 Open today against Rafael Nadal, Federer has won 17 straight finals, an Open era record.
He isn't just a great player.
He has become a legendary closer.
"He makes it look easy when it's not," said Tim Henman, Federer's quarterfinal victim.
Here is another person's assessment.
"There's a number of departments of his game that is arguably better than anybody," said legend Andre Agassi, who lost to Federer on Friday night. "I mean, that's an incredible thing to say when you realize that most players count on one thing to be special. And if they have one thing that's special, it makes them hard to deal with. He has a few things.
"You've got to give him his credit. The guy moves incredibly well. His forehand is dangerous from anywhere on the court. When you think you're in good position, you're not. He changes the whole perspective of the dynamics out there because you think you have daylight, you think you have a hole, and you just can't be tempted because you really don't."
SO CLOSE: Had Maria Sharapova won Saturday's women's final against Kim Clijsters, she would have climbed from No. 3 to a career-best No. 2 in the rankings. Instead, she will stay at No. 3. Sharapova, at 17 years, 11 months, would have been the sixth-youngest woman to reach the No. 2 spot. The youngest was Andrea Jaeger, at 16 years, 2 months in 1981.
ODDS AND ENDS: Federer is hoping to become the first top seed to win since Pete Sampras (over Agassi) in 1994. Tiger Woods' wife, Elin Nordegren, and LPGA golf star Annika Sorenstamsat together Saturday. ... Saddlebrook's Jennifer Capriati, who is rehabilitating an injured right shoulder, is projected to fall from No. 10 in the rankings to No. 11. It would mark her first time outside the top 10 since January 2001.