King Roger looks to extend his reign into 2007
November 24, 2006 7:44pm CST
Roger Federer left the court at the Qi Zhong tennis center on Sunday to the strains of Tina Turner's "Simply the Best," and for once the hackneyed sporting standard was appropriate. The 25-year-old Swiss world number one had just humbled American James Blake in three sets to add the Masters Cup to the Australian Open, U.S. Open, Wimbledon and eight other titles he won in 2006. "This is my time," the nine-times grand slam winner said last week and it is an era he is hoping to extend well into 2007. "I hope it stays for a little bit longer, the domination," he told reporters after Sunday's final. "It's very difficult to keep it up. I had to play, I don't know, over 90 great matches to win so it takes a lot out of you. "The travelling is tough. But I hope I can keep it up and stay healthy. I definitely give myself a good chance to play well again next year. "But we'll see if somebody new comes up or I just can't maintain that level of play. I hope I can, and I'm looking forward to the challenge of 2007. Federer lost just five of the 97 matches he played in 2006 and four of those were to world number two Rafael Nadal, including the French Open final. Victories in the Wimbledon final and the Masters Cup semis convinced Federer that he had "learned a few things" about how to beat his nearest rival and that it was now up to the 20-year-old Spaniard to make changes to keep up. Nadal said Federer was the best number one of all time playing his best tennis but has no intention of giving up the chase. "I am trying to improve my winner with my forehand and play a little bit more aggressive," he said of his preparations for next season. "I am happy with my improvement. I'm going to continue to improve." Blake will finish the year as world number four and summed up what it means to be a top 10 player at the moment. "Obviously, we're all chasing Roger," he said. "It's no secret. He's playing head and shoulders above the rest of us. It's going be tough for anyone to dethrone him. " If Federer is an artist, as Blake also said, his performance in Sunday's final would have to count as one of his masterpieces. BREATHTAKING DISPLAY In a breathtaking display, he showed his rivals that they can no longer look to his backhand in the hope of getting an edge. "It's definitely scary," Blake said. "His backhand today was incredible. He hit so many winners off it and barely hit any errors. It's a tough proposition to beat a guy that doesn't have a weakness like that. Just more evidence that he's the best of all time." Federer's other defeat last year was to Andy Murray and the Briton is one of a clutch of rising talents also including Richard Gasquet, Tomas Berdych, Novak Djokovic and Gael Monfils that he will be keeping his eye on. "I think they're between making the break and not quite sure yet," he said. "Maybe they need another more year. Obviously, the strongest of that pack is still Nadal."