Dubai Tennis Final: Roger Federer wins 100th career title with straight sets victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas
Eight championships for the Swiss at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium
Dubai is certainly a home away from home for Roger Federer.
The Swiss superstar owns a house here and often uses the emirate as part of his pre-season training schedule.
Now Federer has another reason to be even more fond of Dubai as it was here, at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Saturday night, where he won his 100th ATP Tour title, collecting prize money of US$523,300 (Dh1.92m) in the process, after a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas.
It was also a successful revenge mission for Federer, who saw his Australian Open title defence ended by Tsitsipas in the fourth round after an enthralling four-set battle in January.
Of his century of trophies, eight have been claimed at this tournament - only the nine he’s won at the Swiss Indoors lead his Dubai haul, which is now level with his record Wimbledon total.
“I didn't come here expecting I was going to win, to be quite honest,” Federer said. “I hadn't played since Australia. I’m just happy on all fronts how my game progressed, how well I played in the final, on top of it winning the eighth, winning the 100th.
“So many magical things going on. I'm very, very happy right now.”
There had been some suggestions that, after confirming his return to clay court tennis after a two-year absence, this could be a swan-song season for the 37-year-old Federer. Based on his form here, particularly in the final against rising Greek star Tsitsipas, there is plenty more in the tank.
Granted, Tsitsipas was visibly exhausted and had been nursing a back injury even before his gruelling three-hour semi-final against Gael Monfils, but Federer refused to give him an inch.
The 20-time grand slam champion came flying out of the blocks, taking advantage of Tsitsipas’ sleepy start to break in the opening game. The world No 10 did warm into the set, but Federer was impenetrable on serve and looked to be cruising to the opening set when 40-0 up serving at 5-4.
However, out of nowhere Tsitsipas forced his way back into the game and even created two break points to go level against the run of play. Federer, though, held firm and as he sealed the first set, the packed pro-Federer Centre Court crowd turned up the volume several decibels.
Tsitsipas offered far more resistance for much of the second set, which went comfortably with serve until the ninth game. But a great player like Federer only needs one opening and when Tsitsipas provided the only break point of the set, Federer grabbed it with both hands.
A service game to love then followed to ensure Federer becomes only the second player after American Jimmy Connors (109) to win 100 ATP titles.
So many magical things going on. I'm very, very happy right now
“I definitely felt my best,” Federer said. “I think I served very well, and had a high first-serve percentage in play.
“I just think I played the right way. Best-of-three set tennis on a fast court against somebody like Stefanos who also likes to take the ball early. I tried to be very aggressive myself and it worked out.
“I got off on a flyer in the beginning, and never looked back. In the second set, I think I was overall maybe able to create a few more chances. I just felt good in defence, good in offence, good on the serve. That's a good combination to win.”
It would only be fitting for the player considered the greatest of all time to further cement that legacy by winning 10 more and claim one of the few records he doesn’t already possess.
That record could plausibly be broken in Dubai next year after Federer revealed he has agreed to return to defend his title. So much for the retirement rumours, then.
“I have a deal for next year,” he said. “I thought about it this week because I know [the organisers] said they were interested to have me again next year, if it was OK to announce it during the week. I said, ‘absolutely, we can do that’.
“I don't see myself playing anywhere else but Dubai this week. I'm happy to come here again next year. I've enjoyed too much success. I like the tournament too much.”
Updated: March 2, 2019 10:31 PM