Fourth-seeded Roger Federer ended top-seeded Novak Djokovic’s chance of defending his Dubai Championships title with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 semifinal win on Friday. Federer will be looking for his sixth Dubai title when he plays third-seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic in Saturday’s final.
Berdych reached his second consecutive Dubai Championships final with a tough 7-5, 7-5 semifinal win over seventh-seeded Philiipp Kohlschreiber of Germany.
Federer now leads Djokovic 17-15 in their career head-to-head meetings. He also leads Djokovic 13-12 when competing on hard courts. “He deserved to win,” Djokovic said. “He played in the second part of the match better and was more aggressive and played all around the court really well.” Djokovic had won their last three matches and nine of their last 12 matches. He’s twice won three consecutive matches against Federer, but never has won four in a row. “Right now I’m just happy that I was able to win the match,” Federer said. “I don’t care so much about the head-to-heads. But it’s nice to be in the finals here in Dubai again.”
For the first set-and-a-half, Djokovic looked as if he would have an easy time reaching the final. Djokovic established an early lead when Federer lost his serve in an error-filled second game of the first set. Serving at 5-3, Djokovic won the first set on his third set point of the game with a clean ace down the middle. Midway through the second set, it seemed as though Federer remembered that his new part-time coach Stefan Edberg, who is not in Dubai, is urging him to play more offensively. From that point on, Federer started to come into the net and volley more often, which was an effective strategy that Djokovic couldn’t handle.
“I think I was able to play a bit more aggressive as the match went on,” Federer said. “For me it was just a matter of playing consistent, but remain aggressive. Clearly it was close, but I think I got the right balance,” he said.
Djokovic doesn’t seem to be interested in learning to use the net effectively now that he has Boris Becker, who was a serve and volley type of player, as his new head coach.
“We’ve been working on certain details in my game, but it’s nothing significant that I’m going to change,” Djokovic said. “I’m not going to play serve and volley.”
In the second set, Djokovic surrendered his serve in an error-riddled sixth game to put Federer in position to even the score at one set apiece. Federer broke Djokovic’s serve in the first and fifth games of the third set to set up the win. In the final game, Federer saved two break points when serving for the match in the final game.
Berdych enters the final on a 11-match winning streak. He arrived in Dubai having won his first title in over a year at Rotterdam two weeks ago.
“I think he’s playing very well right now,” Federer said. “This is a big match for him tomorrow (Saturday) as well. “I will try to stop him and play a good match myself.”
Berdych now leads Kohlschreiber 8-1 in career matches played. In the first set, Kohlschreiber broke out to a 4-2 lead after Berdych lost his serve in the opening game of the match. From 5-3 for Kohlschreiber, Berdych won the next four games to win the first set, which lasted one hour, 28 minutes.
The second set stayed on serve until the very last game, when Kohlschreiber surrendered his serve at 15-40 for Berdych to return to the final. “The second final in a row with so many great players in the draw here is a great result for me,” Berdych said. “It’s great to be able to be hitting the ball so nice and clean.”