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Forehands and absent friends
Booming Haas winner crucial as Federer overcame rocky road to title after Nadal exit.
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2009 10:31 GMT

Federer joins the four-slam club [AFP]
No Nadal, and no excuses.

Those are the words that could have haunted Roger Federer for the rest of his life if he had let the French Open crown slip from his grasp on Sunday.

Luckily for him, Swede Robin Soderling and a miracle forehand winner in a fourth-round thriller against Tommy Haas helped the Swiss on his way to becoming only the sixth man to complete a career grand slam of all four major titles.

When Soderling ended Rafael Nadal's four-year Paris reign eight days ago in the fourth round, Federer had been expected to grab his golden opportunity with both hands.

Haas heartstopper

But less than 24 hours later it seemed Roland Garros would be shaken by an aftershock of a similar magnitude as Federer was on the verge of suffering his earliest grand slam loss since 2004.

At two sets and 3-4 down to Haas facing a break point, Federer conjured up a screaming forehand winner to bring the scores back to deuce.

That earned Federer his get-out-of-jail-free card and set him on the road to the one Open title missing from his collection.

"If you want to put it down to one point, let's put it down to that one," Federer, who also drew level with Pete Sampras's overall record of 14 grand slam titles, said after beating Soderling 6-1 7-6 6-4.

That point aside, it has been the most excruciating and jittery journey for Federer towards a grand slam title.

"These were two long weeks but especially the last one, because it was as if I had to play four finals against Haas, (Juan Martin) del Potro, (Gael) Monfils, and Soderling."

Federer was beaten by Nadal in three successive Paris finals from 2006, but downed the Spaniard on home clay at the Madrid Open last month.

Mental torture

Recalling Sunday's final, he added: "It was very hard mentally for me to stay within the match during the match, because my mind was always wondering, what if? What if I win this tournament? What does that mean? What will I possibly say? I don't know.

"I was very nervous at the beginning of the third set because I realised how close I was.

"The last game was almost unplayable for me because I was just hoping to serve some good serves and hoping that he was going to make four errors.

"It was that bad. It was an emotional roller coaster for me."

Federer joins Rod Laver and Andre Agassi in achieveing a career grand slam of all of the four available Open titles.

Source:
Agencies
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