September 12, 2004: Roger Federer completes the best GS season since 1988


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September 12, 2004: Roger Federer completes the best GS season since 1988

After winning his first Grand Slam crown at Wimbledon 2003, Roger Federer was finally ready to conquer the entire tennis world in the following season, winning 74 out of 80 matches in 2004 and claiming 11 ATP titles. Following his triumph at the Australian Open, Roger had become world number 1 and he would stay there for four and a half years until Rafael Nadal had passed him in August 2008.

Federer had won Halle, Wimbledon, Gstaad and Toronto that summer, becoming the first player since Bjorn Borg with three consecutive titles on three different surfaces before losing in the early stages of Cincinnati and the Olympic Games in Athens where Tomas Berdych halted him in the second round.

Roger was back at his best at the US Open, though, edging Andre Agassi in a great quarter-final match before dominating in the last two matches to lift his first US Open crown and become the first player since Mats Wilander in 1988 with three Major crowns in a single season.

On September 12, world number 1 Roger Federer had defeated a former champion Lleyton Hewitt 6-0 7-6 6-0 in an hour and 49 minutes in what had been one of the strangest scorelines in Grand Slam finals ever! Namely, for the first time since 1884, a player lost the US Open final after suffering two bagels as Roger completely dominated in the first and third sets, becoming the first player who celebrated in the first four Grand Slam finals he played! Lleyton had led 8-5 in the head to head meetings prior to this match but Roger already had the upper hand over a former world number 1, taking the last three matches before another great performance in this final.

Hewitt was in a good form, losing the Cincinnati final to Agassi and winning 16 straight matches (23 completed sets) before the final clash with Roger. In addition, he won all six matches in New York in straight sets (had a favorable draw) and no one could have predicted he will lose the final so easily.

Both players struggled to find the first serve (55%) but Roger drew the most from his initial shot, winning 78% of the points on his first serve and saving five out of six break points to keep the pressure on his rival. 2001 champion and one of the most consistent players at the US Open in the last couple of seasons had struggled to find any rhythm in his service games, facing 13 break chances in 12 different games and getting broken seven times.

Federer had 23 service winners and additional 18 from his forehand while Hewitt's groundstrokes were just not there in this match, unable to move Federer from the comfort zone or to take the advantage in the rallies. Roger had a clear lead in the shortest points up to four strokes and he was in front in both the mid-range rallies and the longest exchanges to dominate from start to finish.

The first set was over in just 18 minutes and it was a one-way traffic all the time. Federer won 24 out of 29 points, including the last 12, and this was the fourth bagel he served to Lleyton that season after Australian Open, Hamburg, and Wimbledon! After some 30 minutes, Roger had a 6-0 2-0 lead and this was the most impressive start of the Grand Slam finals in the Open era, eclipsing a former champion completely.

The Swiss couldn't keep the same pace in the rest of the set, making 20 errors and saving a break point in game six after firing three aces in a row. Hewitt stayed in touch after fending off three break points in game seven and he broke back in game 10 when Roger served for the set (The Swiss wasted three set points).

The Aussie converted his fourth break point, and this game alone had lasted just five minutes shorter than the entire first set! Federer stayed focused and he won the tie break 7-3, bringing the set home in 68 minutes and gathering the momentum yet again before the third set.

It was all about Federer there, clinching it 6-0 after 25 minutes and sealing the deal with a forehand winner to lift his fourth Grand Slam crown, the first out of five consecutive in New York. ALSO READ: September 11, 2001: Rafael Nadal wastes 13 match points on Futures debut!