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Federer claims slam, ties record

ROGER Federer ended his French Open jinx when he swept past Swede Robin Soderling 6-1, 7-6 (1), 6-4 in the final to clinch his first Roland Garros title yesterday.

The Swiss equalled Pete Sampras's record of 14 grand slam titles and became the sixth man to win all four major tournaments, sealing victory in just under two hours in cloudy conditions in Paris.

"It was really not easy to deal with my emotions," said the 27-year-old Federer, who lost to world No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the three previous finals. "It might be the greatest victory of my career."

The 23rd-seeded Soderling had ended Nadal's four-year reign on the Paris clay in the fourth round.

"To me, he is the best player in history," the Swede said.

Federer, the second man after Andre Agassi to win all four grand slam titles on four different surfaces, started the match confidently by racing into a 4-0 lead with two breaks.

Soderling held serve for 4-1 but Federer, who had never lost to Soderling in nine previous matches, kept up the pressure and clinched the first set on the Swede's serve with a crosscourt passing shot.

The match was briefly interrupted after a man came on to center court with a red and blue flag during the fourth game of the second set.

The man jumped from the stand opposite the media box and approached Federer, touching him with the flag.

Leaping over the net towards Soderling, the man was tackled by Roland Garros security officers and carried away from the court.

Federer lost three points in a row after the incident as Soderling leveled for 2-2.

Both players held serve to a tiebreak which Federer cruised through 7-1 after serving four aces.

The Swiss broke in the first game of the third set when his opponent sent a forehand wide and he never found a solution to turn the situation around. Federer ended his wait on the first match point when Soderling netted a service return, the Swiss falling on his knee in tears and triggering a deafening roar from the 15,000 crowd.

Despite Nadal's surprising departure, Federer's path to the title wasn't easy. He rallied from a two-set deficit in the fourth round to beat Germany's Tommy Haas, and survived another five-setter against Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina in the semifinals.

Federer won his 14th grand slam championship at age 27. Sampras, who never reached a French Open final, was 31 when he won his last major title. Federer will try for No. 15 beginning in two weeks at Wimbledon, which he has won five times. He has also won the US Open the past five years, and he has three Australian Open titles.


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