Roger Federer won his first title in Dubai back in 2003, becoming the dominant figure at this tournament in the next 12 years to conquer seven crowns in total and lose in the final twice to Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
Novak also enjoyed a few fantastic years in the desert, claiming four trophies between 2009-2013 and setting another title match with Roger in 2015. On February 28, Federer defeated Djokovic 6-3, 7-5 in an hour and 24 minutes to defend the title won a year ago, improving his score against the Serb to 20-17 and claiming the 84th ATP title overall.
It was a very solid encounter and it could have easily gone into a decider as Novak had seven break points in total, squandering them all and getting broken once in each set to settle for the runner-up spot. In the end, Roger played a little bit better on both serve and return to complete the triumph in straight sets, staying on the aggressive mode from start to finish and prevailing in the most critical moments to cross the finish line first.
The Swiss finished the match with 29 service winners and 22 winners from the court while Novak had 16 unreturned serves and 17 winners from the field, 18 less than Roger overall. They had the same number of forced errors and Roger had to pay the price for his aggressive approach with 23 unforced errors in comparison to only 13 from Novak, although that wasn't enough for the Serb to make a difference and at least send the encounter into a decider.
Djokovic was the better player in the first ten games of set number two but couldn't capitalize on that, squandering two break chances in games eight and ten and getting broken from 40-0 at 5-5 which was the pivotal moment of the entire clash.
60% of the points ended in the shortest range up to four strokes and Roger had a 45-40 advantage in them, mainly thanks to almost 30 service winners on his tally. He also prevailed in the mid-range exchanges from five to eight shots (25-20) and stayed in touch with Novak in the most extended rallies, taking five out of 11.
Djokovic was off to a better start, creating two break chances in game three that Federer erased with winners from smash and serve, avoiding an early setback and staying on the positive side of the scoreboard. Both players held after a deuce in games six and seven and the first break of serve came when Novak sent a backhand long in the eighth game, trailing 5-3 and allowing Roger to serve for the opener.
The Swiss star needed no second invitation, closing the set with four service winners to clinch it 6-3 in 36 minutes. Novak had a big opportunity to move in front at 4-3 in set number two, creating two break chances that Roger erased with four good serves to get out of jail and stay in touch.
The Serb had the upper hand in those moments, earning another opportunity to turn the set into his favor with two set points on the return at 5-4. It wasn't to be for him, though, as Federer repelled those with an excellent volley and a service winner, blasting another ace to level the score at 5-5 and gain the momentum.
Djokovic was very productive in the last four service games, holding on the first game point in all of them before that all changed in the 11th game, even with a 40-0 lead! Instead of making a comfortable hold, Novak made three errors and gave Roger a break chance after a double fault.
Federer needed only one opportunity to jump into the lead, firing a forehand winner to earn the decisive advantage and serve for the title in the next game. Djokovic got another possibility to extend the set and correct the mistake he made in the previous game when Roger hit a double fault, with the Swiss saving the seventh and last break chance when Novak netted a tough backhand.
Federer wrapped up the triumph two points later with a forehand winner to celebrate the seventh crown in Dubai and the second in a row.