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Federer has world at his feet

February 02, 2004 14:17 IST

Roger Federer flew out of Melbourne on Monday with the Australian Open trophy tucked under his arm and the world at his feet.

Federer's second Grand Slam victory in seven months not only confirmed his reputation as the best player in the world by elevating him to the top of the rankings.

It also left the tennis world wondering whether they had discovered one of the greatest players of all time.

Former world number John McEnroe, commentating on Australian television, said he was already convinced.

"He is one of the most talented players I have ever had the pleasure of watching," McEnroe said.

"I include my idol Rod Laver and Pete Sampras in that. He is one of the all-time shotmakers."

Federer's all-round game and his ice-cool temperament has already kicked off speculation that he could become the first man in 35 years to win the four majors in the same calendar year.

But the 22-year-old from Switzerland has played down his chances.

"If there is anybody, I would like them to step forward and say they can do it because I think it's really difficult," he said.

Federer's victory capped off one of the best Australian Opens in years to set the stage for a fascinating season, with a handful of young players snapping at his heels.

Andy Roddick, who had been number one at the start of the championship, and French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero head the list of challengers.

Roddick was eliminated by Marat Safin in an epic five-set quarter-final while Ferrero lost to Federer in the semi-finals.

After a year in the wilderness, Safin showed that he has re-emerged as powerful as ever, winning a series of gruelling matches to reach the final before he ran out of gas.

The 33-year-old Andre Agassi showed he is still far from a spent force, reaching the semi-finals before going down to Safin in another five-setter.

While the men's tour seems to be on the verge of a golden era, the same could not be said for the women, whose tour continues to lack depth.

The tournament had already been ravaged by the withdrawal of former champions Serena Williams, Jennifer Capriati and Monica Seles and when Venus Williams, playing her first tournament in six months, departed in the early rounds the result was predictable.

World number one Justine Henin-Hardenne and number two Kim Clijsters both strolled to the final without dropping a singles set between them, with Henin-Hardenne winning the final.

Henin-Hardenne, 21, currently holds three of the four major titles but already has her eyes set on Wimbledon, the only one she is missing.

"It's going to be a goal if not this year, then in coming years," she said.

Clijsters, 20, is still searching for her first Grand Slam title after finishing runner-up at four major championships but lost no admirers this time.

She almost missed the event after injuring her ankle playing a warm-up event but decided to risk aggravating the problem.

"I'm very lucky to have been out there. I could have been home for two weeks in Belgium... watching matches on TV," she said.

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