Roger Federer made Dubai debut in 2002 and became a champion a year later, claiming his sixth ATP crown without losing a set. The Swiss defended the title in 2004, beating Feliciano Lopez in the final for his first trophy as world no.
1, preparing a three-peat in 2005. Roger achieved that eventually but the opening two rounds were anything but easy, beating Ivo Minar and Juan Carlos Ferrero in the deciding set tie break (his previous match in Rotterdam final against Ljubicic also went to the distance).
Federer was a few points away from defeat against Minar (was 3-1 down in the decider) while the Spaniard pushed him to the limits in the next match as well, creating two match points at 6-4 in the third set tie break. Roger kept his composure to win the last four points of the encounter and book the place in the quarters, digging deep to continue his winning streak.
The battle lasted two hours and 16 minutes and we saw three breaks of serve on each side, with 11 chances for Roger to break the rival and six out of nine break points he saved to prevail for the fifth time in eight matches against Juan Carlos in the last six seasons.
The action kicked off with a break of serve when Federer sent a forehand long, having to work hard to pull it back by the end of the set. The chance for that appeared in game four when he produced four break chances, wasting them all to stay behind and send Juan Carlos 3-1 up.
A forehand winner gave Ferrero another break opportunity in game seven, with Roger saving it with an ace and closing the game with a forehand down the line winner to remain in contention and within one break deficit. The Spaniard hit well from both wings, wrapping up the opening set with a service winner in game ten, taking a 6-4 lead and moving closer to the finish line.
Encouraged by this momentum, Juan Carlos created two break chances at the beginning of set number two, seizing the second one to gain a set and a break advantage. Roger had no room for errors if he wanted to return to the scoreboard, firing a backhand down the line winner to create three break points in game four.
The second one did the job for the Swiss when Ferrero netted a smash and the battle was on once again. Federer was in the zone now, securing another break at 3-2 following a loose backhand from Juan Carlos that moved him in front, rattling off five straight games to forge a 5-2 lead.
Ferrero could have broken back in game nine with three break chances up for grabs but Roger blasted three winners to repel them, cementing the set with a backhand winner for a 6-3 and the deciding set where he had the momentum.
Federer wasted a break chance in the opening game of the third set and was on the verge of defeat at 2-3 when he offered an opportunity to Juan Carlos after a shaky forehand that landed long. The defending champion saved it with a sharp volley at the net before falling on the second break point, pushing Ferrero 4-2 ahead.
The next game proved to be one of the most important ones and Juan Carlos couldn't stand the pressure, hitting a double fault to drop serve and the advantage, with Roger climbing back to the level terms with a quick hold in game eight for a 4-4.
Both players held with ease in the last four games to set up a deciding tie break where they kept their serve secured in the first nine points. An ace gave Ferrero a 5-4 advantage and a return winner delivered two match points for him.
With his back pushed against the wall, Roger erased the first one with a service winner and another one when Ferrero's forehand finished beyond the baseline, in his most expensive miss of the day. A forehand winner earned the first match point for the Swiss who completed the triumph with an unreturned serve in the 14th point, avoiding an early exit and continuing the charge towards the third Dubai crown.