Tennis: Djokovic beats Federer in Dubai final

AP, Saturday 26 Feb 2011

Novak Djokovic defeated Roger Federer just a month after beating him at the Australian Open to win his third consecutive Dubai Championships title on Saturday.


(The No. 3-ranked Djokovic won 6-3, 6-3 to extend his unbeaten record in 2011 to 12 matches and earn his 20th title. He beat Federer in the semifinals on his way to winning the Australian Open last month, his second Grand Slam.

"I was aware of the challenge that is expected of me on the court, and I was aware of the fact that I need to be on top of my game in order to beat Roger," said Djokovic, who was taken to three sets earlier in the tournament by Tomas Berdych and Feliciano Lopez.

"So the focus was there. I was serving really well, especially the first set. Just the perfect performance overall." Federer let slip a 3-1 lead in the second set, losing the last five games to hand Djokovic victory in one hour, 11 minutes.

"Well, missed match for me, really," Federer said.

"Started bad and then kind of got into the match, but things are over in a hurry sometimes in best of three set tennis." Federer has dominated his rivalry with Djokovic in the past, and still leads the head-to-head 13-8, but he has lost to the Serb at the last two Grand Slam tournaments, and now in Dubai.

"We've had it kind of come and go in spells a bit against each other," Federer said. "I definitely feel he's playing well. I thought he was already playing well at the end of last year. We had a couple real close ones. This one has been one of the rather disappointing matches for me against him." Despite the defeat, Federer will keep his No. 2 ranking ahead of Djokovic, who had a simple explanation for his improved play this year.

"I'm a different player in last year. I have a serve," he said with a smile. "Last year, the serve was not there and I was struggling a lot. I was using a lot of energy.

Now I get to have some free points, which is important." Djokovic set the tone early, breaking Federer for only the third time in the tournament to go up 2-1 and then using his serve to take control of the set. Federer managed to win only two of 17 return points and Djokovic was able to break for a second time to win the set.

Federer made an uncharacteristically high number of unforced errors, especially off his backhand, but he came alive at the start of the second set broke Djokovic to go up 2-1. Djokovic appeared visibly upset after being broken and motioned to his entourage, waving his hands in a circle.

"I felt in one game I just suddenly changed. My groundstrokes got a little bit slower and maybe lost a little bit balance," he said. "But I managed to regain my focus in and next two games, and it was all better." Djokovic recovered from 3-1 down, clinching the match when Federer hit a forehand wide.

Federer, who didn't lose a set in the four matches before he faced Djokovic and had a 14-1 record this year, played by far his worst match of the tournament. He compared it to the thrashing he gave Nikolay Davydenko to win the Qatar Open in January.

"I must have felt like Davydenko felt in Doha," he said.

"You never really get into the match. If you do, you have no cushion. You just feel like even though you might be in the lead or get yourself together, it's still never safe." The 29-year-old Federer said he wouldn't dwell on the loss and that he only needs to spend more time on court. He now heads to the United States for the hardcourt swing that includes Indian Wells and Miami.

"I feel like I need more practice, just a little bit here and there," he said. "Just a lot of hitting, exercises, then maybe also some more points." Still, the loss will raise questions - as it did after the Australian Open - about a changing of the guard at the top of men's tennis which has for so many years been dominated by Federer and more recently Rafael Nadal.

Djokovic was diplomatic about the significance of his two-match winning streak against Federer, though he admitted his confidence grows with every victory over the former No. 1.

"Any time I win against Roger it's a great success because he's such a great player," he said. "It's a huge challenge any time you play him, especially in the later stages of the tournament.

"We all know how mentally strong of a player he is. To be able to win against Roger in straight sets as I did tonight is incredible, but I want to keep on going. I know that I have qualities to do even more, and that's what I want."

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