- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 27, 2006

12:42 p.m.

WIMBLEDON, England — Roger Federer won his record 42nd straight grass-court match today, beating Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 to open his bid for a fourth consecutive Wimbledon championship.

The top-ranked Federer broke the record he shared with Bjorn Borg, the five-time Wimbledon champion who won 41 straight matches on grass from 1976 to 1981.

“It’s nice to get any streak,” Federer said. “I’m still going, so even better if I can maybe postpone it and make it even last longer. I’m surprised myself I’ve kept it that long. To come through today was my only wish, not to break the streak, but to have it come together is nice.”

Federer led Gasquet 6-3, 1-2 on Monday, when the match was suspended by rain. The pair returned to Centre Court under cloudy skies, and Federer needed just 37 minutes to finish off the 20-year-old Frenchman.

Federer closed out the match with an overhead smash, then smacked a ball into the stands and basked in a huge ovation. He left the court the same way he arrived — donning a specially designed cream-colored sports jacket emblazoned with his name and three Wimbledon-style trophies on the breast pocket.

“It’s very nicely done, only one of a kind,” he said.

Federer’s last loss on grass came in the first round of Wimbledon in 2002, when he fell to Mario Ancic in straight sets. His win streak includes three titles at Wimbledon and four at the warmup tournament in Halle, Germany.

Federer said he considers Borg’s grass-court streak more impressive than his own because all the Swede’s wins came at Wimbledon. Borg won five straight Wimbledons before losing in the 1981 final to John McEnroe.

“Wimbledon stays Wimbledon, after all,” Federer said. “The five Wimbledons and six finals is something almost beyond possibility for any player. For me, he stays a hero.”

Earlier, Martina Hingis and Justine Henin-Hardenne took advantage of the dry weather to move into the second round with routine straight-set victories.

Hingis, back at Wimbledon for the first time since 2001, finished off a 6-2, 6-2 win over Ukraine’s Olgo Savchuk. The match had been suspended by rain after the first set Monday.

Hingis, who won Wimbledon in 1997 at age 16, is continuing a comeback after three years off the tour because of a series of foot and ankle injuries and operations.

Henin-Hardenne, who is seeking to add the Wimbledon title to complete a collection of all four Grand Slams, played the first match on Centre Court and needed just 56 minutes to dispatch Yuan Meng of China, 6-0, 6-1.

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