Dubai - Novak Djokovic won his fifth title
in six tournaments and extended an unbeaten run to 18 matches as he
clinched a fourth Dubai Open title with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Tomas
Berdych on Saturday.
The world number one from Serbia underlined
his pre-eminence in the world game with an athletically aggressive
performance against the world number six from the Czech Republic, who
knocked out Roger Federer, the titleholder, in the semi-finals.
had chances to take control of the first set after making the first
break of serve, but missed three chances to consolidate it, and also
narrowly failed to convert three crucial break points in the following
These moments suggested that the biggest difference between
the two men is a mental one, something indicated again near the end when
Djokovic coped with a time violation warning from the umpire as he was
serving for the match.
Djokovic was clearly delighted to triumph
in his first tournament since successfully defending the Australian Open
title five weeks ago.
"To prevail like this and to be the last one standing is thrilling for me," he said of his 36th career title.
was a very close match and could have gone either way. It was never
going to be an easy final because Tomas is a fantastic player. He's been
on the tour a long time and is very experienced.
"He beat Federer
in an incredible match," Djokovic added, referring to the three match
points Berdych saved while halting the Grand Slam record-holder.
also believes that his victory on Dubai's fast courts will stand him in
good stead with the year's opening Masters event getting underway at
Indian Wells next week.
"I haven't always been the player who
loves to play on the fast, super-fast surfaces (like this one), but I'm
happy because during the week I can also work on my aggressivity, coming
into the net, using my serve better," he said.
"That's what I
have done in this tournament and in particular over the years. I have
been trying to work on a few things that can give me more variety in the
game, and I can use that in the tournaments to come."
Djokovic's success on Saturday was also due to tactical prowess.
times he provoked errors by subtlely making Berdych generate his own
pace, and then increased his own pace or counter-attacked at well-timed
There were certainly moments when it seemed that Berdych,
a player sometimes troubled by tension, might get himself far enough in
front to relax into overdrive.
He made the first break at 2-3,
and having lost it in a game of four deuces, almost got another when he
chiselled out three break points in the ninth game.
converted any of these Berdych would have been serving for the set, but
he missed his best chance at 30-40, with a forehand pulled wide, while
Djokovic typically played two fine rallies on the others.
Djokovic also hung tough in the crises. Berdych, by contrast, was occasionally at his most fallible when it mattered most.
allowed Djokovic's break back for 4-4 after sneaking himself into a
great position to make a stolen volley, only to miss the shot. Then when
he was serving to save the set at 5-6 he played his worst game of the
The second set hinged on a break at a psychologically damaging time.
Djokovic steepled up an enormous, but short lob and Berdych hammered it
wide, it put the favourite 5-3 ahead and gave the underdog little time
to repair the damage.
Although Berdych did get a break back point
at 30-40, courtesy of a rare Djokovic double fault, the world number one
played close to his best in four of the next five rallies, closing the
"I gave everything yesterday and didn't have enough today(Saturday)," said Berdych. "And Novak deserved to win.
"Let's see how long this guy is going to be around here. I will try to work hard and come back and try to fight for the win."