After the title drought in nearly the whole of 2013, Roger Federer’s sixth Dubai Open victory assumes significance. The determined 17-Grand Slam victor demonstrated why he cannot be discounted just yet. About a month back, he reached the Australian open semifinal by beating Andy Murray but lost to Rafael Nadal in the semifinal. This week in Dubai, Federer first beat world no. 2 Novak Djokovic in the semifinal and then fought a tense battle with world no. 6 Tomas Berdych to win the tournament. This was Federer’s 78th career title.
On Friday and Saturday, Federer played back-to-back games with immense grit and a new-found patience against highly talented opponents. In both games, he lost the first sets but found the resilience to bounce back in brilliant fashion. The Dubai win is akin to making a signature statement to the critics that 2014 will not be a repeat of 2013. The final against Tomas Berdych was a battle of wits. Federer had lost the first set and in the second he was down 2-3 with a service break. But somehow he managed to dig out his reserves to register a tenacious break back. He began dictating terms from this point onwards and stamped his authority by winning the second and third sets, closing the match 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. Berdych had come to the final in great form, having been unbeaten since his loss to Stanislas Wawrinka in a close semifinal at the Australian Open; and less than two weeks back he pocketed the Rotterdam Open. After June 2013 at Halle, this was Federer’s first victory in an ATP event. In between, he has been having back problems and other injuries. But he withstood the challenge thrown by Berdych and came good at the end.
Federer had played a great semifinal game on Friday, against defending champion Novak Djokovic, in what was billed by media and the packed sell-out crowd, as the match-of-the-tournament. The highly sought-after encounter was eagerly awaited since it was natural to expect a very high standard of electrifying tennis. The result was not important because both players were champions in their own right. Djokovic broke Federer in the second game of the first set. Federer almost came back in the set, when Djokovic was forced to save a break point at 3-1. But Djokovic survived and took the first set 6-3. The story was reversed in the second set but not before Djokovic looked good to take a 3-2 lead, as he held a breakpoint against Federer. But Federer not only survived, he forced his first break of the match against Djokovic to go 4-2 up and finally take the set 6-3. With set score equaled, the third set allowed more leeway to Federer. He broke twice to mount a 4-1 lead and then ran away to close the match 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
In the other semifinal, Tomas Berdych, fresh from his recent Rotterdam triumph, defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany 7-5, 7-5 to make his second successive appearance in the Dubai Open final. For Berdych, it had been a great run of 11 successive match victories in the last one month and going by his fantastic form, he became a force to reckon with in the final. But Federer proved too worthy an opponent for Berdych in the final count.
In the post-match on-court interview, Federer admitted that Berdych held the advantage in the match and he could have won. But he added that he got a bit lucky in the end. Dubai has almost become Federer’s second home, as he maintains a plush apartment in a high rise in the city. His native status was evident from the vociferous support he was able to garner from the locals, all through the tournament.
Just before the men’s final, the men’s doubles title was claimed by the Indo-Pak pair of Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi. The pair scored a 6-4, 6-3 victory over their more fancied opponents; Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic. It was their fifth title as a team but first after they reunited recently.