x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Roger Federer clinches Dubai crown with victory over Andy Murray

The Swiss maestro finishes the tournament at the Aviation Club without dropping a set to clinch his 72nd career title.

oger Federer returns the ball to Andy Murray during the final in Dubai.
oger Federer returns the ball to Andy Murray during the final in Dubai.

Andy Murray wobbled only here and there last night, but even here-and-there cost the opponents of Roger Federer in winter form.

Federer beat Murray 7-5, 6-4, to win the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, and he did so by applying his superior aggression and climbing through the tiny thickets that decided the match. Thus did the Swiss giant snare his 72nd ATP Tour title in his 102nd tour final, his fifth Dubai title and his first since 2007.

“I felt calm, knowing what I wanted to do,” he said of his fifth title in his last seven tournaments straddling late 2011 and early 2012. “The surface, I used it to my advantage, which in last year’s final I couldn’t, or didn’t.”

That final saw Federer, at 29, stifled from any assertiveness by Novak Djokovic, upholding the Serbian’s gaudy year that would see Djokovic reach No 1 and win three of the four grand slam titles. This final saw No 3-ranked Federer, at 30, brimming with fast-court aggression opposite No 4-ranked Murray after Murray had run out No 1-ranked Djokovic in a semi-final on Friday.

Soon, Federer would call it “a beautiful victory” over “the best other player in the draw” during the week, and he would savour in a favoured place where he owns an apartment and first won a title nine bustling years ago.

He would do so after a first set of rigid evenness by pushing barely ahead. Serving at 2-3, he faced 15-40 but scaled out of that when Murray sent a backhand long and a forehand into the net. Returning at 5-5, he surged ahead love-40 with a strange return that almost acted as a drop shot, which Murray ran down but shoved wide.

When Murray climbed out of that to deuce to sustain the evenness, Federer helped himself to two more break points. On the second, he set himself up to rip a backhand cross court pass as Murray neared the net and the Federer-friendly crowd seemed to inhale. The ball caromed off Murray’s racquet and popped up, landing behind the baseline for the break.

Federer held easily for the set.

And then: “I think, in the second set, he played better than me for sure,” Murray said.

Still, Federer had to squeeze through past 4-4 after Murray answered Federer’s earlier break and resumed on-serve status. Federer then won the last two games with only three points yielded and nary a deuce, producing some fine, searing stuff in a 13-shot rally in the penultimate game and an 18-shot rally in the last, both leading to Federer points.

He closed it by pasting into the corner a forehand that seemed to hit both lines.

Still, as the first British finalist here, Murray pronounced himself “happy with the week, because at this stage last year I was in a very different position, a different frame of mind.”

Federer just looked happy after combing through players ranked 15, 34, 10 and four while losing his serve only once the whole way.

“I played a wonderful tournament,” he said.