Federer beats Blake, becomes fifth-youngest to win 50 tourneys

MASON, Ohio &

The translucent trophy is headed for a glassed-covered showcase in Switzerland, the one that has expanded along with Roger Federer's collection of crystal prizes.

The latest one will never get lost in the crowd.

The Swiss star reached another measure of tennis greatness on Sunday, winning his 50th tournament championship. He hoisted another crystal trophy after his 6-1, 6-4 victory over James Blake in the Western Southern Financial Group Masters.

Soon, it will be added to the trophy case at his home in Oberwil, Switzerland.

"It's grown to about office size," Federer said. "I have &

what do you call it when it's behind the glass? You don't have to dust them off all the time."

Good thinking. It gives him more time to concentrate on dusting off opponents.

Few have ever done it so well.

At age 26, Federer is the fifth-youngest player to reach 50 tournament titles, and only the ninth overall in the Open Era since 1968.

"It's not a goal I set for myself in my career, but it's definitely a nice number to get to, especially in terms of titles," Federer said. "It's really a lot, you know, so it's great."

There could be a lot more to come. Given the way he played on Sunday, nobody would be surprised if the U.S. Open yields trophy No. 51.

The higher the stakes, the better he plays.

Federer struggled early in the week and needed a pair of three-set victories to reach the title match against Blake, a 27-year-old American playing in only his second Masters Series championship.

Once Federer got there, he was vintage.

"Just about everything he does is pretty impressive," Blake said. "So, yeah, 50 titles at any age is impressive. Fifty titles at 26 is incredible."

Dressed in all-white on a muggy, 92-degree afternoon, Federer extended his mastery of Blake &

and all Americans, for that matter.

Federer improved to 7-0 against Blake, who has won only one of their 19 sets, off a tiebreaker in the semifinals at the U.S. Open last year. He's not the only hard-hitting American who can't figure out how to handle's Federer's overall excellence.

Federer has won 35 straight matches against Americans since he lost to Andy Roddick in the semifinals at Montreal on Aug. 9, 2003. During that span, different Americans have risen and fallen, but none has broken through.

"He's good enough to find just about any which way to beat you," Blake said. "There's always something for him to fall back on."

Blake was playing catch-up from the start. Federer served a pair of aces to open the match, then broke Blake's serve in the next game to take control. He was on the defensive the rest of the way.

When Federer finished him off with his ninth ace of the match, he raised both arms to celebrate a title that was, in his words, "a very special number."

Bjorn Borg won his 50th title when he was 23 years, 7 months old. Jimmy Connors was four months older when he got to the mark. John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl were 25 when they did it.

The timing of the latest one was special, too.

In recent years, the Cincinnati tournament has been a good barometer heading into the U.S. Open. Federer won it easily two years ago, then went on to get the second of his U.S. Open titles.

Last year, Roddick emerged from his season-long funk in Cincinnati, won the tournament and took a lot of confidence into the Open, where he reached the title match before losing to Federer.

This time, Federer has momentum in his quest for a fourth straight U.S. Open title, but there's reason for others to see opportunity. Federer wasn't in peak form this week, making a lot of unforced errors. He needed three sets to beat Nicolas Almagro and resurgent Lleyton Hewitt to reach the title match.

Using that as a guide, this Open could be more wide-open.

Or, if Sunday is an indication, it might just be another addition to that glassed-in case.

"A lot of people have tried to say at times that he looks beatable, then he goes out and shows that he's not beatable," Blake said. "Then he goes into a Grand Slam and he plays even better."

As usual, Federer will have the final say.

"Now, I'm confident I'm going to be fine at the U.S. Open," he said.

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