After a dominant display in 2004 and 2005, Roger Federer went even further in 2006 when he claimed 12 titles and 92 victories from 97 matches, standing far ahead of Rafael Nadal and other rivals and turning the men's professional tennis into a one-person show.
Roger claimed three Majors and four Masters 1000 crowns and conquered the last 29 matches of the year after Andy Murray ousted him in Cincinnati, winning the US Open, Tokyo, Madrid, Basel and the Masters Cup in Shanghai where he reclaimed the trophy lost to David Nalbandian in a thrilling final a year ago.
Interestingly, Federer lost the opening set against Nalbandian in the 2006 Masters Cup campaign as well before winning sets two and three with ease for a 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory and a positive start of the tournament. The second round-robin clash was even tougher and Roger prevailed against Andy Roddick 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 in two and a half hours, saving three match points in the second set to extend his winning streak before a 7-6, 6-4 triumph over Ivan Ljubicic to top the group standings and set Rafael Nadal clash in the semis.
Rafa fought well (he defeated Roger four times that year) although it wasn't enough to overpower the Swiss who claimed a 6-4, 7-5 triumph in an hour and 53 minutes for the place in his fourth straight Masters Cup final as the first player to achieve that since Ivan Lendl in 1987!
There, Federer took down James Blake 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 37 minutes on November 19 for the third title at this event in the last four years, finishing the season in the strongest possible way just like he played in the biggest part of it.
It was the sixth meeting between Roger and James and the sixth win for the Swiss, already the fourth and most dominant one in 2006 after triumphs at Indian Wells, Miami and the US Open. The American had a great season behind him, playing in the eighth final in 2006 and standing right there with Rafael Nadal and Nikolay Davydenko despite missing a chance to lift the sixth title in what was the most important clash of his career.
Roger was the player on the mission that day, winning 33 points more than his rival and fending off ten out of 11 break chances in three different service games to keep the pressure on James all the time and wrap up the victory in no time at all.
Blake hit only four aces and lost half of the points in his games to play against 13 break chances and suffer six breaks, making the worst possible start and not converting the opportunities he created later in the encounter.
They had a similar number of unforced errors but Roger was much more efficient in the winners department, hitting almost 40 and keeping Blake below 20. The Swiss cemented his backhand to have the upper hand in the majority of the rallies and blasted 30 service winners against only 16 from James, forging the lead in the shortest points and an even bigger one in the mid-range rallies where he silenced Blake's forehand completely.
The more experienced player kicked off the match with a break in the second game, cementing it with three winners in the next game for a 3-0 lead. James was 40-15 up in the fourth game but was yet to get his name on the scoreboard, suffering another break after a backhand winner from Federer who fended off five break points in the next game, closing it with a service winner to keep his serve intact.
The set was over after a return winner from the Swiss in game six, wrapping the first part of the match in 26 minutes and setting the perfect ground for the rest of the encounter. Roger held at love with a service winner at the beginning of the second set and missed a chance to clinch the eighth straight game after squandering two break opportunities in the second game, with Blake finally placing his name on the scoreboard.
James could have moved in front as well for the first time in the next game but Roger stayed focused and repelled four break opportunities (three with winners) to keep his serve intact and move 3-1 up after breaking the American in the fourth game when he forced an error with his lethal forehand.
Serving for the set at 5-3, Federer fired a forehand winner to bring the game home at 15 and move a set away from the title, looking strong to wrap the things up in straight sets. The third game of the third set secured another break for Roger, overpowering James in the backhands exchange to win all four points and make another big step towards the finish line.
James saved a break chance next time he served to avoid an even bigger deficit but Federer secured that second break with a backhand down the line winner in the seventh game, jumping into a 5-2 lead and serving for the title in the game that followed.
That turned out to be the worst service game from Roger in the entire match, spraying a forehand error to get broken at 15 and allowing Blake to reduce the deficit to 4-5 with four winners in game nine. There were no mistakes from Federer what so ever in game ten, delivering four winners to take the set 6-4 and finish 2006 with the Masters Cup trophy in his hands.