On this day: Roger Federer matches Laver and Sampras as third..

Tennis - In the final of the Australian Open 2006, Roger defeated Marcos Baghdatis for his third straight Major crown

by Jovica Ilic
On this day: Roger Federer matches Laver and Sampras as third..

In what is widely considered as his career-best season, Roger Federer won 92 out of 97 matches in 2006 (Nadal beat him on four occasions, three times on clay) and conquered 12 ATP titles, including three Majors. The first of those most notable titles came in Melbourne after defeating world no.

54 Marcos Baghdatis 5-7, 7-5, 6-0, 6-2 in two hours and 46 minutes earning the seventh Major crown and the second at the Australian Open in three years. Roger struggled a little bit to go all the way, dropping five sets in the last four encounters, including a five-setter against Tommy Haas in the challenging fourth round.

After that, he toppled Nikolay Davydenko in the tie break in sets three and four and raised the level against Nicolas Kiefer in the semis to find himself in the title match. The 20-year-old Cypriot surprised everybody at Melbourne Park with three top-ten wins in a row, advancing to what was only his second ATP final and battling on the equal terms with Roger before the world no.

1 shifted into a higher gear to leave his rival behind in sets three and four. Federer became the first player since Pete Sampras in 1993-94 to win three Major titles in a row, having a chance to meet the one and only Rod Laver who presented the trophy to him during the emotional ceremony.

Both players struggled to find the first serve and they were equally efficient once they landed it in. Roger performed better on his second serve, though, and that was the crucial element that forged the triumph for him, fending off seven out of ten break points he faced and stealing rival's serve eight times from 12 opportunities.

The Swiss had more winners and fewer unforced errors, especially after the second set when he seized control, with Marcos staying in touch only in the shortest points where nothing could separate them. Nonetheless, Roger had the upper hand in the more extended rallies, properly engineering the points and outplaying his rival with a mixture of aggressive groundstrokes from the baseline and successful net approaches that kept the action on his racquet.

It was essential for Marcos to get off to a good start and he did that, serving well in the opening two games and breaking Roger in game five to gain a 3-2 lead. Federer pulled the break back immediately in the next game after a costly double fault from Baghdatis, with everyone expecting the Swiss at the top after that.

The Cypriot had some other plans, though, breaking again in game 11 after a weak forehand from Roger and grabbing the opener 7-5 with a service winner a few minutes later. Things looked more and more dangerous for the favorite when Baghdatis broke at the beginning of set number two, creating an additional two break chances for a double break lead in the third game.

Roger fended them off to stay in touch, breaking back in the next game to level the score at 2-2 and gain the momentum. Marcos saved a break opportunity in game eight and was in an excellent position to send the set into a tie break and put some additional pressure on Roger.

Leading 40-0 at 5-6, Baghdatis lost five straight points to give serve away and suffer a crucial break that pushed Federer in front for the rest of the match. The Cypriot fired a forehand long in the last point, and in some way, it marked the end of his chances in this final, dropping 11 straight games to find himself 3-0 down in the fourth set!

Mighty relieved after the outcome of that second set, Federer was thundering in the rest of the encounter, closing the third set with a return winner in some 25 minutes for the first bagel in the Australian Open finals since 1999!

The scoreboard was entirely in his hands when Marcos sent a forehand wide to lose serve again at the beginning of the fourth set, struggling physically to stay in touch with the Swiss who was now marching towards the finish line.

Roger brought the win home with ease, breaking his rival again in the eighth game to wrap up the triumph and start a massive celebration in front of Rod Laver, Guillermo Vilas and other legends where he now belonged as well.

Roger Federer Australian Open Marcos Baghdatis