DUBAI // Desolate scenes reminiscent of Wimbledon in pre-roof days proved the final irony for a Barclays Dubai Championship which has been jinxed from the moment top seed and top attraction Roger Federer announced his withdrawal on the eve of the tournament.
Heavy rain meant the sell-out final between Novak Djokovic and Mikhail Youzhny had to be called off to be resumed at 2pm this afternoon. With defending champion Djokovic leading 7-5, 2-0 and in sight of retaining the title he claimed a year ago, the heavens opened sending the Serbian and his Russian rival rushing for cover. The last thing the organisers needed after seeing a cluster of the world's best players either fail to appear or lose embarrassingly early was to see their sell-out conclusion spoiled by the weather.
Sand storms in the afternoon and the blustery wind that lingered on had made conditions difficult for defending champion Djokovic and the 2007 runner-up Youzhny but at least those conditions were manageable until the first few drops of rain fell at 8.24pm. A delay of only 27 minutes suggested that the 5,000 crowd who had watched Djokovic edge a tense opening set of five service breaks would complete an exhausting week in triumph, especially as he was serving for a 3-0 lead in the second set.
However, much heavier rain than the first shower emptied the stadium of spectators and left tournament director Salah Tahlak and ATP Tour supervisor Gerry Armstrong with little option but to announce a resumption this afternoon, weather permitting. An exhausted Djokovic wanted nothing less than another long drawn out affair after coming through three gruelling three-setters on successive days but the world No 2 had only himself to blame for prolonging matters.
He could have saved a few precious minutes by serving out for the opening set at the first time of asking but played probably his worst game of the match to offer Youzhny a temporary reprieve before closing out the set 15 minutes later. The momentum was clearly with Djokovic at that stage but before he could complete his opening service game of the second set he saw, to his astonishment, rain descending on the Aviation Club and was forced to adjourn to the locker room.
Twenty-seven minutes later he was able to secure the single point he required to open that set with a safe hold of service. The short initial interruption affected Youzhny more and a nervous double fault in his first service game after the resumption gave Djokovic the chance to take a firmer grip at 2-0. firstname.lastname@example.org