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Roger Federer's chance at history arrives Sunday

TENNIS / FRENCH OPEN

The Swiss great gets another opportunity to complete a career Grand Slam, and this time Rafael Nadal won't be across the net in French Open final.

June 07, 2009|Chuck Culpepper

TODAY'S MEN'S FINAL

Roger Federer, Switzerland (2), vs. Robin Soderling, Sweden (25)

Federer defeated Michael Chang, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (5), in an obscure first-round match at the Australian Open on Jan. 18, 2000, for his first Grand Slam match win, at age 18 and with a ranking of No. 62. Federer defeated Mark Philippousis, 7-6 (5), 6-2, 7-6 (3), in a Wimbledon final on July 6, 2003, for his first Grand Slam title. Federer defeated Marat Safin for his second Grand Slam title, Andy Roddick for his third, Lleyton Hewitt for his fourth . . . Andy Murray for his 13th. Federer defeated everybody for five straight Wimbledons. Federer defeated everybody for five straight U.S. Opens. Federer defeated everybody but Rafael Nadal for five straight French Opens. Federer defeated his opponent in 173 more Grand Slam matches out of 199 -- plus two walkovers -- since the Chang match. From Y2K to the decade's end, Federer defeated and defeated and climbed and climbed until he found the vista of the first Sunday in June 2009, when he'd need to defeat just one more booming opponent to go peerless: 14 Grand Slam titles like Pete Sampras, but the full set of four Grand Slam dishes.

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A FRENCH MORSEL

It has been 10 long and fitful tennis years since the last man on a very short list claimed the last piece of his full Grand Slam china. Andre Agassi finally etched a new name alongside Fred Perry, Don Budge, Roy Emerson and Rod Laver, those with the adaptability and cleverness to win all four major prizes. Joined by another 1999 singles champion, his wife, Steffi Graf, Agassi appeared at Roland Garros on Saturday as part of his and Graf's foundation work and called winning the '99 French Open "the most profound moment I've ever had on a tennis court." He called that title "a function of not having any more regrets." He said, "I think Roger being the second-best clay-court player over the last five years, earning a spot in the final three different times, deserves this more than I did." And he reckoned of Nadal, "If it wasn't for one sort of freak of nature from Mallorca, Roger probably would have won this tournament a handful of times." Then Agassi said, "Freak of nature, it's a com- pliment where I come from."

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ESCAPE FROM A FRENCH OPEN DRAW

Nadal excepted, smooth pavement seldom marks the roads to French Open titles, as Agassi found when he lost seven sets in 1999, including the first two to Andrei Medvedev in the final. In the six matches leading up to this final, Federer has lost six sets and has eluded (deep breath): four set points in a first set against Jose Acasuso, a 5-1 deficit in a third set against Acasuso, a set point in the third set against Acasuso, an 0-1 set deficit against Paul-Henri Mathieu, an 0-2 set deficit against Tommy Haas, a 6-7 (4), 5-7, 3-4, 30-40 deficit against Haas, a 40-15 deficit when Haas served at 4-4 in the third, a set point in the first set against Gael Monfils, an 0-1 set deficit against Juan Martin Del Potro, a 3-6, 4-5, love-30 deficit against Del Potro and a 1-2 set deficit against Del Potro.

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STAT OF THE DAY

11-0: Federer's record in Grand Slam finals against people not named Rafael Nadal (13-5 overall).

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

Agassi, on Saturday: "I think tomorrow there's a chance we're going to see history."

-- Chuck Culpepper

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