Federer in cusp of history

June 6th, 2009 - 7:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Roger Federer Paris, June 6 (DPA) Roger Federer is keeping his eye on the prize, refusing to allow even a smallest hint of overconfidence to slip into his preparation for what could be a history-making final Sunday at the French Open.
The Swiss is poised on the cusp of levelling on the all-time mark of 14 Grand Slam singles titles, achieved by Pete Sampras at the 2002 US Open.

Standing in Federer’s ways is 25th-ranked Swedish surprise packet Robin Soderling, who has been living a dream since achieving the unthinkable with his win over Rafael Nadal last Sunday in the fourth round.

“There are no easy Grand Slam finals,” said Federer, one victory away from his place as the sixth man to win all four Grand Slam championships in his career. “The one on the other side of the net has also won six matches and is definitely in the shape of his life.”

Andre Agassi was the last to complete a career Grand Slam 10 years ago at Roland Garros. Other players who have done it are: Fred Perry in 1935, Don Budge in 1938, Rod Laver (1962 and ‘69) and Roy Emerson(1964).

Soderling, playing in his first career final on clay, has never been past the third round at a major until his Roland Garros breakthrough.

“I cannot obviously underestimate Robin even though I’ve beaten him, I think, in the nine matches we’ve played against each other,” said Federer, who last handled the Swede in straight sets a month ago on clay in Madrid.

“Obviously it’s nice to see someone else for a change in the French Open finals,” said Federer of the absent Nadal, who has beaten him in the last three Paris finals and before that in a semi. “I’ve been there before.

“But I don’t know if it’s (having previously been in the final) an advantage or not, because I’ve never been able to win.”

Federer, who lost his only set to Soderling on grass four years ago, has equalled Ivan Lendl’s all-time record of 19 Grand Slam final appearances. He has now appeared in 15 of the last 16 Grand Slam finals at majors, missing only the Australian Open last year when he went out in the semis to Novak Djokovic.

“The pressure is big for both players,” said the Swiss, playing in his fifth straight Grand Slam title match. “Not only for me, but also for him.

“It’s his first big step in a Grand Slam. I’m sure we’re going to play some good tennis.”

Soderling knows what he is up against - even if he’s yet to experience it.

“I’ve lost a lot of times to Federer. He’s a great player and it’s very difficult to play against him. I’m expecting the toughest match I can possibly have on Sunday.

“The final for me is the match you really, really want to win. I feel like I’ve played some big matches on the center court this week, I feel like I’m very prepared.”

Federer stands 13-5 in singles finals at majors. He came through a tough patch during the fortnight, losing six sets and forced into five-set victories against Juan Del Potro in the semis and Tommy Haas in the fourth round this week.

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