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Federer beats Baghdatis for seventh Grand Slam title

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Roger Federer is relentless while he
goes about his business on the court.

Turns out, there is a soft side to the No. 1 player in men's
tennis.

Federer's victory over unseeded Marcos Baghdatis in the
Australian Open final Sunday came in front of one of tennis' icons:
Rod Laver. And that was enough to bring a rarely emotional Federer
to tears.

Federer broke down and repeatedly had to take time to gather
himself after he received his trophy from Laver, the last man to
sweep all four Grand Slam events in the same year, in 1969.

"I guess it's all coming out now," the 24-year-old Federer
said. "I've had some hard speeches, but this one is a little rough
right now."

He thanked Laver, his voice breaking one last time, then
embraced the 67-year-old Australian.

The victory was Federer's seventh major -- including three in a
row. He could complete his own version of the "Serena Slam" by
winning on the clay at the French Open, the only major he hasn't
been victorious in. Serena Williams won four in a row on the
women's side in 2002-03.

The 5-7, 7-5, 6-0, 6-2 triumph over Baghdatis increased the
parallels between Federer and Pete Sampras, who won 14 Grand Slam
events in his career and was the last man to win three consecutive
majors (Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 1993, and the Australian
Open in '94).

Their birthdays are four days apart, and they won their seventh
Grand Slam titles at the same age.

"It's quite scary if I compare it," Federer said. "I'm on the
same road, but I've got to maintain it. It would be great to
challenge it, but it's not my first priority.

"Obviously, I know the importance of winning the French, what
it would do to my career. But Wimbledon is the one for me. And if I
keep on winning Wimbledon and not the French, I'm very happy about
that, too."

While Federer was winning his seventh Grand Slam final, Amelie
Mauresmo ended her seven-year wait for a major. She was leading
Justine Henin-Hardenne 6-1, 2-0, before the Belgian quit due to
stomach pain.

Mauresmo, the WTA Championship winner, lost the 1999 final here
to Martina Hingis and never returned to a championship match in the
majors.

"The three main things of the game -- tennis, physical and
mental -- all come together perfectly," she said.

Henin-Hardenne was the first woman, and only the second player
in the Open Era, to retire from a Grand Slam final.

Hingis made a successful return to Grand Slam tennis after three
years in retirement, reaching the singles quarterfinals and then
combining with Mahesh Bhupathi to win the mixed doubles title.

American twins Bob and Mike Bryan were lucky the third time
around at Melbourne Park, beating Martin Damm and Leander Paes for
the men's doubles title after losing the championship match in 2004
and '05.

Yan Zi and Zheng Jie combined to win the women's doubles,
upsetting top-ranked Samantha Stosur and Lisa Raymond to give China
its first Grand Slam title.

Federer had to rally against Baghdatis, who won the first set
and had his boisterous fans believing he really might be able to
pull off a huge upset. Federer then stepped up his game and won 11
straight games from 5-5 in the second set.

"I really played very well, first two sets," Baghdatis said.
"I had my chances. I just started thinking, got a bit stressed
out, stopped playing my game ... maybe was a bit scared of him and
didn't really believe in it.

"He got his momentum and he was playing great tennis. When
Roger's playing good, it's really tough."

Despite the loss, the 20-year-old Baghdatis -- who had never
gotten past the fourth round of a Grand Slam event and was ranked
only 54th coming into the tournament -- said his dream had come true
just by reaching the final.

He dropped out of school and moved to France at 14 to improve
his game at a tennis academy.

"All the tough work I've been through and all the things I'm
doing through all these years and all the sacrifices my parents do
for me, it was just great being here and playing a final, even if I
lost it," Baghdatis said.

"I have to go back, feet on the ground, and start working hard
again because there are lot of players like me who want it so much
and have the heart, have the fire in them to do what I did this
week."