This one was over in the warm-up

Court announcer Craig Willis, the voice of tennis, football and all big sport in Melbourne, was reeling off Roger Federer's record while the players warmed up on Rod Laver Arena before Sunday's Australian Open final.

You know the spiel. A record 15 Grand Slam titles, three Australian Opens, 61 titles ... and the fans spontaneously began to applaud the CV.

"I haven't finished yet," Willis gently chided the capacity crowd as he continued the long list of credits.

Intimidating stuff. You betcha. As if opponent Andy Murray didn't have enough on his plate, he was reminded again of the enormity of his mission improbable.

That reality was reinforced in just the second game when Federer unleashed a crushing backhand winner down the line to set up the first challenge to Murray's serve.

"Oh, dear" muttered an experienced English tennis writer, sitting in a media area where several senior sports writers from London's dailies had made the long dash to will their adopted Scot to break Britain's 74-year major title drought. Alas, the long trip was to no avail.

Such was Federer's dominance when he secured an early break in the second set that he started to experiment a little with his tactics.

A drop shot here, a dink crosscourt backhand there. Just to break Murray's backcourt rhythm and remind him that there were even more options in his armory.

Only in the third set did Federer look to even raise a sweat beneath that trademark blue Nike headband.

But he emphasized the coolness and composure when Murray served for the set at 5-3 and again staving off five set points in the gripping 13-11 tiebreak.

Federer's fourth Australian Open triumph drew him level with Jimmy Connors, behind only Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl, as those to occupy the world's No. 1 ranking for the most weeks. He now stands at 268 weeks, only 18 behind Sampras. And he will break that record if he successfully defends his French Open crown in early June.

It will, however, mean little to the maestro -- he covets only the game's indelible honours, like the one that was up for grabs on centre court Sunday.