Tomas Berdych upset defending champion Roger Federer to reach his first final at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, and will face former three-time winner Novak Djokovic in Saturday’s final.
Federer was downcast after his 3-6 7-6(10-8) 6-4 defeat, during which he held three match points. Those came when he led 6-4 and 8-7 in the second set tiebreak.
Once that set got away from him Berdych looked the more likely winner in the third, breaking to lead 3-2, holding but losing three break points for 5-2 and holding two match points on Federer’s serve at 5-3.
"Obviously I leave this match with a lot of regrets, I’m feeling, serving for the match, having chances in the beginning of the second when he wasn’t quite in the match yet to go set and a break up, a few points where things just didn’t happen for me. Pity to lose that one, but Tomas did well to hang in there," Federer said.
Berdych, who also beat Federer in their last meeting at the US Open, is the first player from the Czech Republic to reach the final since Jiri Novak in 2003.
"I couldn’t be better feeling than this one," said Berdych, "coming from court playing Roger I would say almost in front of his home crowd, I would say that, and to be the one who won that match. It really feels great. I’m very pleased the way I played today."
And previous experience of fighting back from match point down against Federer served him well.
"I already have some experience with him with some match points down, and then being able to turn the match the other way. In every single point I was believing in myself, trying to be just focused on that single point and not wanting to see the score and just going one by one."
Novak Djokovic won his 17th straight match and his 12th of the season as he overcame Juan Martin Del Potro 6-3 7-6(7-4).
"I was very pleased with the performance overall and the way I handled myself in the tough moments," said Djokovic. "Mentally I stayed tough and believed that I could, you know, that I could go all the way and win in straight sets. I didn’t really allow myself to be negative."
Fourth-seeded Del Potro was bidding to become the first player from Argentina to reach the final, but although he saved a match point at 5-3 and prevented Djokovic serving out the match at 5-4 he was outplayed in the tiebreak.
Djokovic held the edge in the first set, giving up only five points on serve and breaking to lead 4-2 when Del Potro made a forehand error.
Del Potro earned an early advantage in the second set, breaking for 2-0, but he was then distracted by a time violation from the umpire for taking too long to serve. That came at break point down in the fifth game and Djokovic went on to break serve and then level at 3-3.
Djokovic also broke serve again to lead 4-3, and having failed to serve out the match just one mini-break to lead the tiebreak 5-3 was enough to put the world number one into the final.
"He deserved to win. He played so well in the tiebreak," said Del Potro. "I was break up in the second set, and I made mistakes. I lost the calm when I start to discuss with the umpire, and he come back in the second (set) so quick."
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.