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Playing the favorite: Federer holds perfect record against upstart Gonzalez

Playing the favorite: Federer holds perfect record against upstart Gonzalez

Roger Federer has beaten Fernando Gonzalez on clay in Monte Carlo, Hamburg and at the French Open. On grass at Wimbledon and carpet in Basel. And four times on hard courts.
It adds up to nine times a victor in nine matches as Federer goes into Sunday's final at the Australian Open a heavy favorite for his 10th win in a row over Gonzalez.
That makes him favorite for a more important 10 _ the number of Grand Slam singles titles in his career, moving him to within four of Pete Sampras' leading total.
Federer said Saturday he's wary of Gonzalez, who beat former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, No. 5 James Blake and No. 2 Rafael Nadal en route to the final. And the Chilean player's semifinal win over Tommy Haas was so overpowering that Haas admitted all he could do was watch.
"I think it's going to be a tough match," said Federer, who has nine majors from 10 finals. "Usually when you play against Fernando, you always know it's going to be dangerous because he's got the ability to suddenly steamroll. He's been very consistent, very impressive."
Gonzalez, who had never advanced beyond the quarterfinals in 23 previous Grand Slams, gives a similar assessment of his game.
"I've been playing the last four months at a very high level, and I'm playing much better than the last time we played," said Gonzalez. "I've never beaten him, I don't have an advantage with Roger. But in tennis, you always have a new opportunity."
Federer believes 10th-seeded Gonzalez, who had only three unforced errors in his win over Haas, will relish a center court appearance in such an important match.
"I think he's a player that loves a big stage," said Federer. "The center courts, he plays better than on the outside courts. I think the more his ranking goes up, the more he's going to play on the big courts, the better he's going to play in the future."
The Swiss star, playing in his seventh consecutive Grand Slam final, tying a record set by Jack Crawford in 1934, has come up against an unexpected finalist before _ last year here against Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus.
"I'm surprised to see Fernando in the finals, not anything against him, but I thought that like a (Nikolay) Davydenko or Nadal would have come through in the end," Federer said.
"I thought Marcos was never going to make the final, and I ended up playing against a player that I'm a huge favorite. This time around maybe I'm not that big a favorite ... (but) I'm used to all situations."
Gonzalez has improved in the past year under new coach Larry Stefanki, who previously coached John McEnroe, Marcelo Rios and Yevgeny Kafelnikov. Gonzalez' already strong forehand has become more potent, his backhand is no longer exploited by his opponents, and he has become more patient with his shotmaking.
"I've worked a lot on my net game," said Gonzalez. "I can go in, I can slice. I can do all the things that I never did before."
Federer, who is on a 30-match winning streak on hard courts, has noticed.
"I could already see it coming last year, he was starting to play better and better," said Federer. "More patient from the baseline ... a bit more smart, whereas in the beginning he was just coming out and swinging on everything."
Haas, who felt so powerless against Gonzalez in the semifinal, thinks the 15,000 capacity crowd at Rod Laver Arena will get their money's worth in the final.
"If he (Gonzalez) can maintain the level he showed in the last couple of matches, the stats speak for themselves," Haas said after his loss. "If he can make very few unforced errors, play like he did tonight, I think it would be a good match."
Gonzalez hopes so.
"He's the No. 1 player in the world by far," says the 26-year-old Chilean. "It's only one match. I'm going to give everything that I have."


Updated : 2021-04-14 12:41 GMT+08:00