It was no novel moment when Roger Federer raised the winner’s trophy at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships – it was the Swiss champ’s sixth win of the competition, in 11 years.
After winning consecutive Dubai titles 2003 through 2005, and then picking up wins in 2007 and 2012, the 32-year-old proved he was still on top after defeating Tomas Berdych 3-6 6-4 6-3 at the final on Saturday (March 1).
It was a tense battle from beginning to end, with Federer having to rally from a set and break down to overcome one of the most consistent players this season. Berdych was on an 11-match winning streak, the best of his career, and he was chasing his second title of the season after recently winning in Rotterdam.
It was Federer’s first title since he won Halle in June 2013, earned during a season in which he was hampered by back problems. Now fully fit again, Federer was able to withstand a strong challenge from Berdych, finally closing out the match on his third match point.
Berdych claimed an early break to lead 2-1, and although Federer levelled in the next game he was broken again to fall behind 4-2. Federer found himself deeper in trouble when he was broken again at 2-2 in the second set, but he responded by once again breaking back immediately and then broke again for the set.
In a tense finale Federer won the only break of the third set to lead 3-1, but then had to fight off two break points to hold for 5-2.
‘It's like one of those things you just kind of hope it turns for the better,’ said Federer of being down in the second set.
‘At that point you're just telling yourself to serve well, give yourself maybe a few good opening points on Tomas' serve, and then you hope the points play out the way they need to be played out at that very moment, because it's basically in his hands. If he serves well, it's difficult, or the margins are extremely slim at that point.
‘So once you do get back, it's important to not then relax and think, oh, the hardest part is done, it's only about the beginning actually. So I was happy I was able to use momentum, win that second set, and then it was a tough opening in the third, you know, wasting the Love- 40 game on Tomas' first service game. Then saving breakpoints myself. I mean, anything could have happened there.’
Berdych aditted that he had not made the most of his opportunity.
‘I had really many chances, and then I basically just gave him the game and, you know, that's it,’ he said. So really, I mean, it's very disappointing for me the way I handled that situation. I was in the better shape and playing really well and made my chances, but, you know, unfortunately I didn't execute it until the end.’
The doubles was won by Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, who claimed their fifth title as a team and their first since 2011 with a 6-4 6-3 victory over Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic. Incredibly, Nestor was appearing in his 137th doubles final and Zimonjic his 82nd.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and operated by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of H H Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.