Federer edges Ljubicic in finals

Roger Federer pounced on a second serve, whacking a backhand return that kissed the tape, winning the Nasdaq-100 Open.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:39 IST
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Key Biscayne:

Roger Federer pounced on a second serve, whacking a backhand return that kissed the tape, winning the Nasdaq-100 Open. He was a little lucky when it counted most Sunday, but he was also very good. He came from behind in three consecutive tiebreakers to claim the Key Biscayne title for the second year in a row, beating Ivan Ljubicic 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6). "The bigger points, he played better,'' Ljubicic said. "He played more relaxed and more confident than I was. When you play a tiebreaker against him, he rarely misses.'' The top-ranked Federer won three tiebreakers in a match for the first time to remain unbeaten since August 2004 in the United States, where he has won 48 consecutive matches and the past seven tournaments he has entered. Federer improved to 28-1 overall this year, with the only loss to Rafael Nadal in Dubai. Ljubicic, seeded sixth, settled for runner-up despite losing only 12 points on his first serve. He hit 21 aces, and during one stretch won 13 service points in a row. But Federer won the pivotal points, such as when he faced set point in the final tiebreaker at 5-6. He hit a pair of service winners, then spun his final shot off the net cord. Federer walked to the net with a sheepish grin. Federer became the first man to win titles at Indian Wells and Key Biscayne back-to-back in consecutive years. "I never thought I would do it again,'' he said. "I was extremely happy with the way I played. The first set gave me a little cushion, and Ivan was always running uphill.'' On a roll Federer extended his record-winning streak in the ATP Masters Series to 24 matches, and won his ninth Masters Series final in a row. Even against top players, Federer is remarkably dominant. He beat Ljubicic for the seventh straight time. But the match was his toughest of the tournament, and the narrow margin made him a little testy. He yelled at himself and argued at length with a lineswoman about a call. When he challenged a ruling on his serve and lost, he appeared rattled and double-faulted on his next shot. In his four matches on the stadium court, Federer was successful on only one of five instant-replay challenges. Overall, players overturned 53 of 161 rulings challenged (33 percent). Federer has been one of the few players reluctant to embrace the technology, used by the professional tours for the first time at Key Biscayne. Federer received $533,350 for his fourth title this year. Ljubicic, a finalist in a US event for the first time, earned $266,675. (AP)