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Federer picks up where he left off

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DOHA, Qatar — Roger Federer began 2005 the way he finished 2004: with a victory.

Federer easily beat sixth-seeded Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia 6-3, 6-1 Saturday in the Qatar Open final for his 21st straight match win.

The Swiss star has won 13 tournament finals in a row, dating to October 2003, and he appears to be in peak form heading into a title defense at the year's first Grand Slam event, which starts Jan. 17.

"I am extremely happy to start the new year in such fine fashion," Federer said. "I am sure this win will give me great confidence going into the Australian Open."

Last year, he became the first man since Mats Wilander in 1988 to win three Grand Slam titles in a season, going 74-6 with 11 titles overall.

The top-ranked and top-seeded Federer needed just 63 minutes to defeat Ljubicic and claim his 23rd career title in his 31st final. He didn't drop a service game or a set throughout this hard-court tournament.

"I hope I can come back here next year and lift the trophy again," Federer said.

Ljubicic lost the Qatar Open final for the second consecutive season.

"It's not a bad thing to lose to the world's best player," Ljubicic said. "I had a great week here. I played really well."

Federer broke Ljubicic in the sixth game of the match to take a 4-2 lead, then broke serve three times in the second set.