Dubai - Roger Federer has showed an enterprising new side to his game as he beat
Novak Djokovic for the first time in 18 months and ended the top seed's
defence of the Dubai Open title.
The record 17-time Grand Slam
title winner beat the six-time major champion 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, turning the
match around not only with scintillating groundstroke hitting but with
some bold approaches to the net.
Djokovic looked the more likely
winner when he got within a point of going a break up in the fifth game
of the second set, but a couple of minutes later came a short rain delay
which halted his momentum.
After that Federer's game rose to much
higher levels, and his increasing willingness to come forward, which
earned him 11 points from 17 net forays, seemed to bear the stamp of his
new coach, Stefan Edberg.
"There was a buzz out there tonight,
and I was able to enjoy myself with that crowd," five-time Dubai
champion Federer said on court.
"For some reason I had a tough
start but the crowd kept pushing me on and I played well. It's a quick
court so I am always trying to be aggressive. I wish I could do Stefan's
volleys, but I work with what I have."
Later the 32-year-old was asked when he might be back to his best again, after a difficult 2013.
hope it's now," he said. "It's all happening. Beating Novak on the hard
courts here in Dubai, it's tough. This is a big step in the right
direction for me. It gives me a lot of confidence."
improved what he calls his transition game -- the strokes and timing
which facilitate his movement to the forecourt -- and from late in the
second set he generated a spell of six winning games out of seven.
at love-30 on his serve after the rain, Djokovic immediately hit a
backhand drive into the net, and lost that pivotal game when he failed
to land his first serve and followed it with another drive into the net.
first game of the final set saw Djokovic drop serve again with a double
fault, which was also crucial, making both Federer and the crowd
believe he could win.
Although Djokovic did play his part in a
sensational eight-minute fifth game in the final set, he could do
nothing about a roaring forehand cross court pass with which Federer
achieved a double break.
"I knew I was in a bit of trouble and not
looking good at all because he has a tendency to really run with it and
then play more freely on your serve and he plays very dangerous," said
Federer, who had lost three matches in a row to Djokovic before Friday.
for me it was just a matter of trying to play consistent but remain
aggressive. Sometimes be also overly aggressive and see if it works."
it did, it put him 17-15 up in their head-to-heads and prevented
Djokovic earning a repeat of last year's final against Tomas Berdych,
the world number six from the Czech Republic.
Djokovic said Federer was an eventual worthy winner.
though I was the better player and I felt I was in control for the
first hour or so, that was not enough, because a few points can really
decide the winner and it can change," said the world number two.
"Congratulations to him for coming back into the match. He deserved to win."
reached the final with a 7-5, 7-5 victory over Philipp Kohlschreiber,
the seventh-seeded German, earning him his 16th win in 17 matches.