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Federer finishes Dubai six-pack

Updated: 2014-03-03 07:46
By Agence France-Presse in Dubai ( China Daily)

Roger back in winner's circle after rebounding against Berdych

Roger Federer followed his best win in 18 months by taking his first title in nine months with a revenge victory over Tomas Berdych in Saturday's final of the Dubai Open.

Federer came from behind to beat world No 2 Novak Djokovic on Friday.

 Federer finishes Dubai six-pack

Roger Federer poses with the trophy after defeating Tomas Berdych 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in Saturday's singles final at the ATP Dubai Tennis Championships. The victory marked Federer's first title since last June. Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters

He did the same against Berdych, the man who saved two match points against him in last year's semifinals, winning 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 to claim a sixth title in the UAE.

There were far too many errors for it to be considered a great final, but it became increasingly dramatic as the game's most famous player worked his way back against one of the sport's most dangerous hitters.

Federer was a set and a break down and appeared to be out of it, but he managed to find some good returns just as the match was slipping away.

The win extended Federer's record of Dubai titles to six, and moved him above John McEnroe's total of 77 titles into third place on the all-time title list.

Only Ivan Lendl and Jimmy Connors remain above the Swiss.

Federer finishes Dubai six-pack

Most of all, it helped the Grand Slam record-holder to maintain his belief that even at 32, he has another major in him.

"It's the mental belief that you're gonna win instead of losing - I think that's what I got back right now," said Federer, after lifting his first trophy since last June.

While he had been brilliant in the second half of the match against Djokovic, Federer was more circumspect about the tennis that got him over the line against Berdych.

"He should have brought it home," Federer said. "I got a little lucky. I just fought well and I couldn't be more happy with the outcome.

How had he escaped from peril in the second set?

"I just stood on the baseline, tried to hit a few good shots, hoping Tomas didn't keep hitting big serves ... and hoping to get a little lucky," he said.

"I was able to stay calm and once I got back on even terms I started to play better.

"I really enjoy playing against Tomas, who is a great player and has had a great streak going."

That was a reference to Berdych's 11 successive wins, which is the longest streak of his career.

But he will be very disappointed to have lost three of his next five service games from 3-2 up in the second set.

The result means questions will again be raised about the Czech's mental capacity to make the best of his considerable talent.

Federer's patchy start happened despite being handed an early break for a 2-1 lead on four successive driving errors from Berdych.

He then dropped serve twice without looking likely to make a break back.

Federer finishes Dubai six-pack

Berdych's first serve and a few of his forehand blows were delivered as fast as any in the game, but still Federer's timing was nowhere near the sharpness it had been in the second half of his win over Djokovic 24 hours previously.

Early in the second set he stood with his hands on his hips, staring in frustration at another mistimed forehand, just when he needed to make a push to turn his fortunes around.

Berdych began to make serious progress by breaking Federer for a 3-2 lead. Had he consolidated that, the match might have been over quickly.

Instead, Federer found a bit of magic at last, breaking back with a thunderous forehand, holding with a delicate little half-volley drop shot, then holding to love with his best game of the match and forcing Berdych to serve to save the set.

He couldn't.

Instead, the Czech produced his most inhibited game of the match, dropping serve to love, while Federer responded by launching several great drives.

The third set saw Federer much more in the ascendant.

He nearly broke for 2-0, did break for 3-1, and further eroded Berdych's confidence with a tremendous recovery from 15-40 down on his serve, which got him to 5-2.

Berdych did well to save two match points on his own serve, which might briefly have reminded Federer of what happened last year.

However, the Swiss favorite was more solid in closing out his advantage, and at the death there were no wobbles.

"It's very disappointing for me the way I handled that situation," said Berdych.

"I was in the better shape and playing really well, and made many chances, but unfortunately I didn't execute."

(China Daily 03/03/2014 page24)