Federer improves yet again in 2006

For Roger Federer to do any better next year, he'll need to win everything.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:38 IST
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For Roger Federer to do any better next year, he'll need to win everything. The world's top-ranked tennis player had another incredible year in 2006, winning three Grand Slams and the season-ending Masters Cup. The only major title Federer has yet to win - the French Open - is within reach, too. The Swiss star made the final for the first time but lost to defending champion Rafael Nadal. "To finish (the season) off by winning the Masters Cup, the world championship so to speak, it's the perfect ending to an incredible season," Federer said. "There's not much more I could have done." Federer has been ranked No. 1 since February 2, 2004, and already has enough points to ensure he'll break Jimmy Connors' record of 160 consecutive weeks atop the ATP rankings by the end of February. Only two players (Nadal and Andy Murray) beat Federer this year. He finished the season with 12 titles in 16 finals appearances from his 17 tournaments, winning $8.34 million. Nadal also had a stellar year. Beside winning the French Open for the second consecutive year and losing to Federer in the Wimbledon final, the 20-year-old Spaniard set a record for consecutive wins on clay. The win over Federer in the Paris final was his 60th in a row, dating to April 2005. Mauresmo shines The women's game continued to show that all the top players can win, but Amelie Mauresmo finally emerged as a threat to win on all surfaces. The Frenchwoman, who had reached only one Grand Slam final before 2006, won the Australian Open and Wimbledon, and lost to Justine Henin-Hardenne in the final of the WTA Championships. "I will look back on my season and say I would have signed for it any time if you told me I was going to get two Grand Slams titles," Mauresmo said. Henin-Hardenne reached the finals at all four Slams - the first woman to achieve that since Martina Hingis in 1997 - but won only her second straight French Open for her fifth major title. She finished No. 1 for a second time. Besides the two losses to Mauresmo, the Belgian lost to Maria Sharapova in the US Open final. "I can look back and say in my final in Wimbledon and at the US Open I couldn't be at my best level, but I'm not going to think too much about that and I'm just going to keep everything that went well this season and say that it's been the best season of my career," Henin-Hardenne said. Henin-Hardenne nearly added another title in 2006, but withdrew from the deciding Fed Cup doubles with a knee injury, giving Italy its first title. The Italian duo of Francesca Schiavone and Roberta Vinci led 3-6, 6-2, 2-0 when Henin-Hardenne was forced to stop. The Davis Cup went to Russia for only the second time, after beating Argentina 3-2 in the final in Moscow. Marat Safin, a two-time Grad Slam champion who had lost his opening singles match, beat Jose Acasuso in the final match. However, Russia's semifinal win over the United States proved more memorable. Leading 2-1 after the first two days, Russia pitted Dmitry Tursunov against Andy Roddick in the first reverse singles. The Russian won the first two sets, but the US Open finalist fought back to take the next two before a marathon fifth that lasted nearly five hours and saw Tursunov win 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 17-15. Agassi retires Andre Agassi, the American who began his career as a brash teenager and ended it with eight Grand Slam titles, retired at age 36 after losing to Benjamin Becker in the third round of the US Open. One of only five men to win all four majors in his career, Agassi played the first of his record 61 Grand Slam tournaments at the US Open in 1986. He won his last at the 2003 Australian Open. "I'm going to wake up tomorrow and start with not caring how I feel," Agassi said after his last match. "That's going to feel great." Other players in the news in 2006 included Marcos Baghdatis, the Cypriot who unexpectedly reached the Australian Open final, and Hingis, who returned to professional tennis after about three years off the court. The former top-ranked player from Switzerland moved up to No. 7 in the rankings, winning in Rome and Kolkata, India, and reaching the elite, eight-player WTA Championships. "I'm happy with the way things have gone this year. My climb in the rankings has been very satisfying," Hingis said after winning the Sunfeast Open in India. "I'm now enjoying the game more than when I was 17."