On this day: Roger Federer tops Ivan Ljubicic for third consecutive Dubai crown



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On this day: Roger Federer tops Ivan Ljubicic for third consecutive Dubai crown

After he conquered the tennis world in 2004, Roger Federer was the dominant figure on the ATP Tour in 2005 as well, winning 81 out of 85 matches and lifting 11 titles to leave all the rivals except Rafael Nadal far behind.

The Swiss had played six tournaments before the start of the clay season, winning 32 out of 33 matches (suffering the only loss in that crazy Australian Open semi-final to Marat Safin) and conquering Doha, Rotterdam, Dubai, Indian Wells and Miami.

In four of those six events, Federer had to play against Ivan Ljubicic, beating him in the title match in Doha, Rotterdam and Dubai and again in the fourth round at Indian Wells in two tight sets that offered one break chance in total!

Federer eclipsed Ljubicic in Doha while that Rotterdam clash proved to be much tougher, with Roger prevailing in the deciding tie break to lift the trophy. On February 27, Roger and Ivan met in the final in Dubai as well and the Swiss scored a 6-1, 6-7, 6-3 win in two hours and 16 minutes, celebrating the third straight title and the 15th victory in a row at this event.

The two-time defending champion was off to a shaky start of the campaign, beating Ivo Minar and Juan Carlos Ferrero in the deciding tie break, saving two match points against the Spaniard and ousting Mikhail Youzhny and Andre Agassi more comfortably for the place in the 33rd ATP final.

There, he won almost 20 points more than Ljubicic, overpowering the opponent on the second serve and repelling five out of seven break chances to keep the pressure on the Croat who couldn't endure it despite a solid effort.

Roger won 26 out of 41 points on the second serve return and converted five out of seven break chances to control the pace in sets he won, emerging at the top in the 16th straight ATP final after suffering the last loss in Gstaad in July 2003!

Federer had more winners and fewer unforced errors, having the upper hand in the shortest exchanges and mid-range rallies to leave Ivan behind and become the only player with three straight Dubai crowns. The Swiss had to dig deep right from the start, fending off three break opportunities in game three before bringing the game home with a drop shot winner to bypass an immediate setback.

Ljubicic wasted game points in the next game and got broken eventually when his backhand landed long, sending Federer 3-1 up and falling 5-1 behind after a terrible forehand in game six. The Swiss secured a set with a forced error a few minutes later, moving 6-1 in front and hoping for more of the same in the rest of the encounter.

Ivan sprayed a backhand error at the beginning of the second set to lose serve again and push Roger closer to the finish line, repelling another break point in game three to avoid a complete disaster. It gave him much confidence, breaking back in the eighth game after a running backhand winner that left Federer with no answer, also saving a match point at 5-6 in the tie break with a good serve and stealing it 8-6 with a deep return that forced an error from Roger.

The defending champion stayed focused, breaking in the second game of the deciding set after trailing 40-0, only to squander game points and suffer a break a few minutes later after a double fault to keep Ljubicic on the positive side of the scoreboard.

Returning at 4-3, Federer won the 20-shot rally to grab the crucial break with a forehand winner, wrapping up the match with a hold at 15 a few minutes later and starting a huge celebration of the third straight title in the desert when Ivan failed to return his serve.