PARIS -- Oh, how Roger Federer savored every moment with his first French Open trophy.
He raised it overhead. He cradled it in the crook of his elbow.
He closed his eyes and kissed it. He examined the names of other
champions etched on its base. Even in a downpour on Court Philippe
Chatrier, as heavy, gray clouds blocked any shred of sunlight
Sunday, that silver trophy sure seemed to glisten.
Finally, the lone major championship that had eluded Federer was
his. With his latest masterful performance, Federer tied Pete
Sampras' record of 14 major singles titles and became the sixth man
to complete a career Grand Slam.
History was at stake, and Federer was at his best, completely
outplaying No. 23-seeded Robin Soderling of Sweden en route to a
6-1, 7-6 (1), 6-4 victory in a French Open final that lacked
suspense but not significance.
"Maybe my greatest victory - or certainly the one that takes
the most pressure off my shoulders," Federer said in French,
moments after dropping to his knees, caking them with clay, as his
127 mph service winner ended the match. "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 at Roland Garros."
Federer came heartbreakingly close in the past, losing the
previous three French Open finals, so there certainly was something
poetic about his tying Sampras' Grand Slam mark at this particular
tournament, on this particular court.
"Now that he's won in Paris, I think it just more solidifies
his place in history as the greatest player that played the game,"
Sampras told The Associated Press.
"If there's anyone that deserves it, it's Roger," Sampras
said. "He's come so close - lost to one guy who's going to go down
as probably the greatest clay-courter of all time."
That would be Rafael Nadal, the man who beat Federer at Roland
Garros in the 2006-08 finals and the 2005 semifinals, too. But
Nadal's 31-match French Open winning streak ended this year with a
fourth-round loss to the hard-hitting Soderling.
"I knew the day Rafa won't be in the finals, I will be there,
and I will win. I always knew that, and I believed in it. That's
exactly what happened," the second-seeded Federer said. "It's
funny. I didn't hope for it. But I believed in it."
Only 7-13 against Nadal, Federer entered Sunday 9-0 against
Soderling and, other than the threat of postponement because of
rain, there was never any doubt that would become 10-0 by day's
That's because Federer showed off the athleticism and artistry
that carried him to five championships at Wimbledon, the last five
at the U.S. Open and three at the Australian Open. Federer hit more
aces than Soderling, 16-2. He broke Soderling four times. He won 40
of the first 47 points on his serve. He won five points with
delicate drop shots.
Federer was outstanding at the start, taking a 4-0 lead, and
close to perfect in the tiebreaker. That was Soderling's chance to
get into the match, but Federer wouldn't allow it: The Swiss star
served four points - and all four were aces, ranging from 118 mph
to 132 mph.
Federer called it "one of the greatest tiebreakers in my
Soderling never really stood a chance, not against Federer, not
on this day, not on this stage.
"You really gave me a lesson in how to play tennis," Soderling
This was Federer's 19th Grand Slam final, equaling Ivan Lendl's
record, and Soderling's first. Soderling not only shocked Nadal -
and the entire tennis world - but also beat No. 10 Nikolay
Davydenko, No. 12 Fernando Gonzalez and No. 14 David Ferrer.
"Every time I played Roger, after the match, I always said, 'I
played so bad today.' Now I learned that it's not that I played
bad," Soderling said. "He makes me play bad."
For only two moments was Federer the least bit shaken: As the
last few points were played - victory tantalizingly close - and
during a bizarre and worrisome episode when a man jumped over the
photographer's pit and ran on the court.