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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 February, 2004, 09:08 GMT
Federer reigns supreme
By Caroline Cheese

Roger Federer
Roger Federer is still on the look-out for a new coach, but on the evidence of his performance at the Australian Open, he has little left to learn.

The 22-year-old completely justified his new status as the world's number one player with a supreme display of power and exquisite touch against Marat Safin in the final.

John McEnroe, a player of prodigious skills himself, believes Federer is probably the most talented player ever to grace the men's game, and it is difficult to argue.

There is not a single shot Federer cannot perform to the highest quality.

Against Safin, he was deadly from the back of the court, both in attack and defence.

His serve was commanding and it was noteworthy that he did not even feel the need to to serve and volley, a skill he used to great effect in winning his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon last July.

More tellingly, Federer has apparently shaken off the nerves that occasionally blighted his game in the early part of his career.

As he closed in on the Australian Open title, he was the picture of composure.

Federer is already being compared to the greats of the past, including Pete Sampras and Rod Laver.

Grand Slam titles tend to be the measure of greatness and with only two to his name, Federer is not yet ready for the history books.

And with such an array of quality in the world's top 10, it would be an astonishing achievement, even for Federer, to claim the 14 majors that Sampras managed.

The charismatic Safin's return to form and fitness has added yet another dimension to the men's game.

Marat Safin
He was clearly tired against Federer, after a series of five-set matches took their toll.

But in his defeats of Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi, the Russian proved he still has the weapons to return to the world's top five.

Lleyton Hewitt, too, showed encouraging signs that he has put a disappointing 2003 behind him and he was unfortunate to run into Federer as early as the fourth round.

Meanwhile, Roddick, David Nalbandian, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Andre Agassi all displayed the quality of tennis that makes them serial Grand Slam contenders.

Teenager Rafael Nadal gave his already glowing reputation another boost with a third-round appearance in which he tested Hewitt to the limit.

The men's game is in rude health, a stark contrast to the state of women's tennis.

There was not a single memorable match in the Australian Open women's tournament, which was deprived of Serena Williams, Jennifer Capriati, Monica Seles, Mary Pierce and Jelena Dokic through injury.

The final between Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne at least went to three sets, but the quality of tennis was hardly befitting of a showpiece event.

The return to fitness and form of Serena and Venus Williams cannot come soon enough.

But for aficionados of the men's game, the Australian Open, in which Federer laid down the gauntlet in such spectacular fashion, has only whetted the appetite for the remainder of what promises to be a thrilling season.

Links to more Australian Open 2004 stories



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