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- Dubai 04:52 06:05 12:13 15:36 18:15 19:28
Roger Federer claimed the 84th title of his legendary career, kept his nose in front in his personal rivalry with Novak Djokovic, and equalled his best achievement at any tournament by winning the Dubai Open for the seventh time on Saturday.
The Grand Slam record-holder from Switzerland beat the world number one from Serbia 6-4, 7-5 in a colourful success which took Federer's title haul here equal to those of Halle and Wimbledon. It also put him 20-17 up against Djokovic
Federer served superbly, his 12 aces taking his career total past 9,000, something only three other players have done since 1991.
Even more noticable was his risk-taking, the frequency with which he approached the net, and the commitment with which he attacked his ground strokes.
The victory was a fine riposte to those who said after his third round loss to Andreas Seppi in the Australian Open that his good days were now behind him.
"People are often saying how old I am - but who knows how many years I have left. I can still play with the best," the 33-year-old said challengingly.
It required only one break of serve in the first set, in the eighth game, to give Federer the thrust he needed to close out the first set.
And one break was enough in the second, coming in the eleventh game.
Djokovic nevertheless came very close to vital breakthroughs when he had Federer at 15-40 in the third game of the first set, and again in the eighth and tenth games of the second set. The last two were both set points, and both were saved by aces.
"I definitely won the big points tonight," said Federer.
"I am very happy with this - otherwise I don't think I would be here giving this interview.
"It's very special to be part of this match. We have played many, many times, and this seventh title does mean a lot. I will always come back here every single year."
Djokovic, who was thus denied the 50th title of his career and the opportunity to overtake the 49 won by his coach Boris Becker, may reflect on the seven chances to break serve altogether which got away.
The first offered Djokovic perhaps his best chance when he pushed Federer back from the net with a decent lob, only for the maestro to produce a nerveless, powerful and accurate smash.
The second was abruptly truncated with a fine first serve, and this seemed to inspire Federer.
The two break points at 3-4 in the second set were similarly dispatched with an ace and a first service winner, and the two at 4-5 with even more rapid aces.
Djokovic had a break point in the last game of the match too, but that was to break back.
Federer saved that with the greatest difficulty of any of them, with a smash from a deep high lob which he could easily have missed.
But Federer was relaxed, pressure-free, and enormously buoyed by the noise of his many supporters here.
"Better than losing in the first round of the doubles," he said, recalling his brief exploits with Swiss compatriot Michael Lammer.
"You work hard and travel a lot, and make sacrifices and hope it pays off in big matches. It's been a wonderful week. After this you can't wait for the next tournament to start."
Djokovic often played very well, and claimed he could not have done more. He had to be pleased with what he had done, he reckoned, even if it was the first time that he had lost in his five finals here.
"We always make each other play our best tennis," he said.
"We require from each other the maximum focus and commitment, and that's what raises the quality of the match. That's why he's who he is."
Djokovic did have one last laugh.
"How come you had seven break points and he had two - and you lost?" he was asked on court afterwards.
His answer caused the stadium to erupt. "I think I will get the same question a little later from Boris," he said.
SECOND SET: DJOKOVIC 5 FEDERER 7
Federer serves for the championship but is made to work hard as Djokovic wins the first point to lead 0-15 and then extends it to 0-30. Federer gets two brilliant serves to level it and then rushes to the net to force Djokovic to commit an error as the Swiss wins the championship point. Djokovic manages to take it to deuce in which Federer gets his first double fault. But strong recovery means he wins the title. Djokovic 5 Federer 7
BREAK! Djokovic serves well and some unforced errors from Federer takes the Serb to 40-0. Federer puts a solid fight taking it to deuce. The Swiss is playing unbelievable tennis at the moment. Djokovic adds to the misery with a double fault to give Federer a breakpoint, which the defending champion beautifully seals.Djokovic 5 Federer 6
Djokovic again races to a 0-30 advantage and then 15-40 to earn himself a double break and set point advantage. The Swiss wipes both of them to force it to deuce. This is the sixth breakpoint Federer has saved in this match. Two aces and he wins the game. Djokovic 5 Federer 5
Neat shots from Djokovic as he easily holds on to his serve. Djokovic 5 Federer 4
Djokovic determined to get the crucial break puts his best game forward to earn double breakpoints. Federer saves one with an ace and the next with a powerful first serve which Djokovic fails to return. The Swiss continues to serve well and holds on to his serve quite comfortably. Djokovic 4 Federer 4
Federer steps up the gas as he races to a 0-30 advantage. The Swiss blunders as Djokovic draws level and then follows up with two good points to hold serve. Djokovic 4 Federer 3
Federer is put to test by Djokovic winning two points but the Swiss gets his serve at the right time to win the game. Djokovic 3 Federer 3
Great serves from Djokovic as he leads 40-15 and then serves to the corner which Federer hits wide to keep the serve. Djokovic 3 Federer 2
Djokovic hurries to grab a point but Federer is in impeccable form as he wraps the game easily. Djokovic 2 Federer 1
Djokovic looks dominating for the first time serving well. Four straight points and he keeps serve. Djokovic 2 Federer 1
Federer easily looking the best among the two as he races to 40-0 advantage. Djokovic fights hard to pull back two points before Federer seals it with a fine serve. Djokovic 1 Federer 1
Federer continues to give Djokovic a tough time but the Serb manages to seal the crucial points to hold on to his serve. Djokovic 1 Federer 0
FIRST SET: FEDERER 6 DJOKOVIC 3
Some terrific shots and serves ensures Federer seals the first set comfortably. Great going by the Swiss. Federer 6 Djokovic 3.
BREAK! Federer earns a breakpoint and the Swiss manages go hold on to it after Djokovic hits it wide. Federer 5 Djokovic 3
Fine battle in the centre court as Federer produces some fine shots to hold serve. Federer 4 Djokovic 3
Djokovic keeps his serve without much fuss. Federer 3 Djokovic 3
Easy one for Federer as keeps serve without dropping a game. Federer 3 Djokovic 2
It's been an intense battle in the middle. Some high quality rallies as they fight hard for every point. Djokovic manages to win his serve but not before a fight from Federer. Federer 2 Djokovic 2
Djokovic raises the bar as he immediately achieves a double-breakpoint advantage. Federer manages to wipe out both. A long battle follows before Federer keeps his serve. Federer 2 Djokovic 1
Djokovic is facing the heat already as Federer playing aggressive tennis. The Swiss takes it to deuce before Djokovic gets those two cruical points to hold on to his serve. Federer 1 Djokovic 1
Federer begins the proceedings serving first. Good serves gives him his first game but not before Djokovic's brief fight. Federer 1 Djokovic 0
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer renew their great rivalry when they meet in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Saturday with both players fighting fit and ready for battle.
Djokovic, who is now just one win away from his 50th career singles title, needed two hours four minutes to overcome Czech Tomas Berdych 6-0 5-7 6-4, while Federer took just 56 minutes to end the run of Borna Coric 6-2 6-1.
It will be their fourth meeting in Dubai and second clash in the final.
A few months ago they were had been supposed to bring the curtain down on the ATP Tour with a blockbuster at London's O2 Arena, only for Federer to withdraw injured.
This time, the world's top-ranked players have arrived in the final in great form and their 37th career meeting has organisers of the $2.5 million hard court event grinning.
They have 10 Dubai titles between them and while Federer leads 19-17 in head-to-heads, Djokovic prevailed in the one that really mattered last year to win the Wimbledon title.
"When you play Roger, it's always a great challenge," Djokovic, 27, told reporters after beating Berdych in Friday's semi-final.
"If you want to win you have to play your best tennis against Roger in the finals of any event, but here particularly because I feel this is the kind of surface and conditions that suit his game best."
Three of their matches have been in Dubai, Federer winning last year's semi-final and a quarter-final against a teenage Djokovic in 2007, while the Serb won their 2011 final clash.
"I look forward to it," added Djokovic, who has reasserted his hold over the men's game by winning Wimbledon and the Australian Open in the past seven months and should be favourite to prevail on Saturday.
"It's always a tough match. I need to be ready for the battle. I need to stay focused throughout the whole match."
Berdych felt helpless in the first set, and was disappointed that after eventually getting into the match he had lost such a close battle.
“Obviously very disappointed with that,” he said. “I mean, it was a close game, but that's how it is. I was trying to get my chances. I get quite used to those kind of situations that you play with him, and then you just thought that you are on another planet and you have nothing to do. You just have to wait and be patient and try to keep focused, self belief, and try to keep going.”
Father-of-four Federer, who had trounced Croatian teen Borna Coric 6-2 6-1 in the other semi, was full of praise for Djokovic.
"Novak has really dominated again since the end of last year," number two seed Federer, a 17-times grand slam champion, told reporters. "He showed up when it mattered the most. That's what you can expect from Novak."
Both players enjoyed fairly easy paths to the Dubai final.
Federer has yet to drop a set. His highest-ranked opponent was Richard Gasquet in the quarter-finals and the world number 27 retired injured after losing the first set 6-1.
Djokovic also strolled through, dropping 13 games in three matches, before Berdych gave him a fright in the last four.
The youngest semi-finalist in the tournament's history, 18-year old Coric admitted that he was nervous about playing Federer.
“Yeah, I was. I was. I was nervous,” he said. “ I knew that it's going to be very tough, you know. But when you come on the court and actually feel the ball and feel the pressure which he's making, it's actually been tougher than when you're watching it on the sofa in front of the TV.
“You know, he was just way too good for me. I was feeling so rushed. I didn't have any time to play my game plan. I was just trying to hold in the rally as long as I can, and it was basically only thing what I could do.”
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
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