NEW YORK Roger Federer is at his best against the best, when it counts the most, and he was pretty much perfect in the U.S. Open final.
Federer became the first man since 1988 to win three majors in a year, thoroughly outclassing Lleyton Hewitt 6-0, 7-6 (3), 6-0 Sunday to add the American Grand Slam title to those he took at the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
There hadn't been two shutout sets in the event's championship match since 1884.
''It was a perfect start,'' Federer said. ''Tough for Lleyton, obviously, but for me, a great start.''
And here's what was particularly remarkable: The top-ranked Federer's opponent was no pushover. Federer dominated every facet against pugnacious, backward-cap wearing, ''Come on!''-yelling, fist-pumping Hewitt, a former No. 1 and owner of two major titles, including the 2001 U.S. Open.
Federer led the fourth-seeded Hewitt in winners (40-12), aces (11-1), and service breaks (7-1), and won the point on 31 of 35 trips to the net.
And now there are all sorts of other impressive numbers Federer can lay claim to:
no one had won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open back-to-back since Pete Sampras in 1995;
including Wimbledon in 2003, Federer is 4-0 in major finals, the first man in the Open era to start a career by winning his first four;
he's won 11 straight tournament finals overall;
he's won 17 straight matches against players ranked in the top 10.
There's more: No man had captured consecutive major titles since Andre Agassi won the 1999 U.S. Open and 2000 Australian Open. The 18 Slams since then was the longest drought in the Open era.
''It's an incredible effort, what he's done,'' Hewitt said. ''I don't think people probably realize how hard it is.''
With his fluid, all-court game, cool demeanor and win-the-big-ones determination, Federer already is inspiring talk about whether he can challenge Sampras' record of 14 major titles. Sampras got No. 4 at age 22; Federer turned 23 last month.
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