Novak Djokovic triumphed 7-5, 5-7, 6-3 against Mikhail Youzhny to win one of the most dramatic finals in the 18-year history of the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships yesterday. He is only the second player after Roger Federer to successfully defend the title, and it was the first time in his career that Djokovic has managed the feat.
The second-seeded Serb needed to battle for three hours 21-minutes in a match that had to be continued on a second day after torrential rain, thunder and lightning caused play to be suspended on Saturday evening.
When play was stopped, Djokovic had gained the upper hand and was leading 7-5, 2-0. If he thought he was going to continue to a straight-sets victory, seventh seeded Youzhny had other ideas and his great serving and powerful backhand kept him contention right to the end.
There was little to separate them in the first set, with Youzhny saving a break point with a smash before holding for 1-1, followed by two exchanges of breaks. Youzhny broke to lead 3-2 when Djokovic made a forehand error, but the Serb broke back immediately and then broke again to lead 5-3 by forcing a backhand error from his opponent.
But he failed to serve out the set, double-faulting to set up break point and then netting a backhand. Then, with the set seemingly heading for a tiebreak, Djokovic forced a forehand error on break point at 6-5 to sneak the first set after 63 minutes.
The second set was just as balanced, with Youzhny recovering the break of serve at 3-1 and Djokovic squandering a golden opportunity to break for a commanding 5-3 lead.
Djokovic struggled in the third set, but was competent enough to send his opponent packing.
"It took a lot of energy for me," said Djokovic after receiving his trophy from His Highness Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority.
"If we had continued last night I had much better chance to get the job done in two sets," said Djokovic.
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