Following a fantastic 2005 season, Roger Federer enjoyed an even better 2006 that carried him towards three Major titles and 12 ATP crowns overall. Federer won 92 out of 97 matches in a historic season and it all started on January 7 when he defeated Gael Monfils in the final in Doha.
Roger became the first player since his idol Stefan Edberg in 1994-95 to defend the title in Doha, achieving that without losing a set after struggling a little bit against Fabrice Santoro in the second round and more commanding victories in the other four encounters to clinch the 34th ATP title at the age of 24.
The Swiss kicked off the campaign with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Ivo Minar in 64 minutes despite facing seven break chances, having to work hard against the magician Fabrice Santoro in the next clash that saw no break opportunities for the Frenchman and six for Roger who failed to convert any in a 7-6, 7-6 win for the place in the quarters.
There, Federer defeated Marcos Baghdatis 6-4, 6-3 to enter the last four and dominated over Tommy Haas to reach the title match. The young Frenchman Gael Monfils (hadn't lost a set before the final) stood between Roger Federer and the crown and the world no.
1 earned a 6-3, 7-6 triumph in an hour and 55 minutes to defend the title and kick off the season in the best possible way. Gael served at only 49% but did his best to stay in touch and hope for a potential upset, fighting well in set number two before coming short in a tight tie break.
Roger suffered two breaks and had the opportunity to seal the deal much earlier, creating 15 break chances but converting only three, spraying more unforced errors than Gael but also forcing more mistakes from his opponent to erase that deficit.
Nothing could separate them in the mid-range rallies and Federer had the edge in the shortest points up to four strokes and also in the most extended exchanges, a necessary fact for an overall win against a quick and persistent rival who covered every part of the court with the same efficiency.
The Frenchman moved in front in the very first game after a terrible forehand from Roger, saving a break point to cement the lead in game two following another forehand mistake from the defending champion. Monfils had to dig deep even harder to keep his serve intact in game four, repelling four break chances before moving 3-1 up with a service winner, reaching another deuce on the return in the next game and using the fact that Roger still couldn't find his range.
Federer held in that fifth game and broke back at love a few minutes later when Gael sent a backhand long. That gave him a massive momentum ahead of hold at love in game seven for his first lead before another break that pushed him 5-3 up.
Serving for the set, Roger held at 15 with a forehand winner, taking the opener 6-3 and marching towards the finish line when Monfils hit a double fault at the beginning of the second set to suffer the third straight break.
Out of sudden, Gael broke back in the very next game to end his drought, surviving a tight third game to gain the advantage and fending off more break points at 2-2 to stay on the positive side of the scoreboard. The same happened next time he served, with Roger who was sailing through his games much more relaxed but without a chance to grab a break and seal the deal.
The set went into a tie break and the pressure was on Gael who scored a mini-break in the third point following a weak forehand from Roger, forging a 5-3 lead thanks to a brilliant forehand down the line winner that pushed him closer to the set.
Federer went for an all-or-nothing forehand in the next point to pull the mini-break back, firing two winners to create the match point and converting it with a forehand return winner that delivered the title for him.