On this day: Roger Federer beats Andy Murray for first Dubai crown in half a decade


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On this day: Roger Federer beats Andy Murray for first Dubai crown in half a decade

In the bigger part of 2011, Roger Federer was unable to follow the pace set by Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, winning the title in Doha in the opening week but staying away from the trophies in the next nine months. That all changed after the US Open when he rattled off 17 straight matches to close the season in style, conquering Basel, Paris and the ATP Finals to gain a considerable momentum before the start of 2012.

Rafael Nadal halted the Swiss in the semi-final of the Australian Open and the February brought more joy to Roger, winning the title in Rotterdam and heading to Dubai where he would lift the first title since 2007! On the same day Andy Murray defeated him in the desert four years ago, Federer toppled the Briton 7-5, 6-4 in the title match on March 3 to restore his supremacy at one of his favorite tournaments, wrapping up the week with two top-10 triumphs.

Roger needed 67 minutes to kick off the assault with a 6-0, 7-6 victory over Michael Llodra, losing 14 points on serve in the entire match and breaking the Frenchman thrice in the opener before a much closer battle in set number two that he closed 8-6 in the tie break.

In the clash of the coevals and experienced players, Roger toppled Feliciano Lopez 7-5, 6-3 in 76 minutes, dropping nine points on serve and never facing troubles on serve, scoring one break in each set to reach the quarters.

In the repeat of 2007 final, Federer stormed over Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 6-4 in 70 minutes, creating 11 opportunities on the return and defending his serve beautifully to secure the spot in the semis where he had to battle against Juan Martin del Potro.

The Argentine gave Roger a run for his money, saving all six break points to force two tie breaks, falling in the closing stages of both to propel Federer into the final after two hours. Four years after the first-round exit to Murray, Roger defeated the Briton 7-5, 6-4 in an hour and 37 minutes for his fifth Dubai crown and the seventh triumph over Andy in 15 encounters.

Both players struggled to find the first serve and it was Federer who drew the most from it, saving two out of three break chances given to Andy and taking almost 40% of the return points for three breaks from nine opportunities.

The Swiss had more winners, having the upper hand in the shortest rallies up to four strokes and staying in touch with Murray in the mid-range and more extended exchanges to prevail in straight sets and lift the title. Servers held after deuce in the opening games of the match and it was Andy who created the first break chances in game six after a backhand error from Roger.

The Swiss repelled them both, winning four points in a row and closing the game with a volley winner to stay on the positive side of the scoreboard and gain the momentum before the rest of the set. Serving at 5-5, Murray had to dig deep to defend the serve, repelling the first four break points before Roger seized the fifth to secure a break and close the opener with three winners in game 12.

Carried by this momentum, Federer broke in the third game of the second set when Murray sprayed a backhand error, cementing it with a hold at love before Andy pulled the break back in game six to prolong his chances. The Briton saved a break point to win the third game in a row and go 4-3 up, although he sealed his fate in this match when Roger broke him at 15 at 4-4, leaving the Swiss to serve for the title in the next game.

Andy stayed in touch until deuce before Roger crossed the finish line with a forehand crosscourt winner to celebrate the second title of the season and the first in Dubai since 2007.