For most of the 2011 season, Roger Federer trailed behind 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 Federer rattled off 17 straight victories to close the year in style, conquering Basel, Paris and the ATP Finals to gain a considerable momentum ahead of 2012.
There, Rafael Nadal halted the Swiss in the semi-final of the Australian Open while 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!
Andy Roddick and Novak Djokovic were the players to beat in the desert between 2008-2011 and Federer was the beaten finalist in 2011, losing to Novak Djokovic and hoping to change that 12 months later. Roger needed 67 minutes to kick off the assault with a 6-0, 7-6 victory over Michael Llodra, serving well and breaking the Frenchman thrice in the opener before a much closer battle in set number two that he won 8-6 in the tie break.
In the clash of the 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 move into the last eight. In the repeat of 2007 final, Federer raced past 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, together with Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
On March 2, Federer and del Potro battled for precisely two hours, with the Swiss prevailing 7-6, 7-6 to advance into the seventh Dubai final and defeat the Argentine for the tenth time in 12 encounters sine Wimbledon 2007.
It was already the third clash between Roger and Juan Martin in 2012, with the better-ranked opponent conquering the previous two in Melbourne and Rotterdam, finding the way to repeat that in Dubai and set the final meeting with Andy Murray who ousted Novak Djokovic.
Federer lost 16 points in 12 service games, never facing a break point and creating six on the return, failing to seize any of those and having to secure the victory in a harder way. The rivals needed only 19 minutes to wrap up the first six games, serving well and offering no chances to the returners.
It finally appeared in the 12th game when Juan Martin served to stay in the set with the Argentine repelling two break points with some brave hitting to reach a tie break where Federer forced an error to move 5-2 up, converting the fourth set point with a forehand crosscourt winner at 6-5 to secure the opener and gain a massive boost.
Facing the ultimate challenge in the third game of the second set, del Potro fended off three break points to remain on the positive side of the scoreboard, taking down another one at 2-2 with a forehand winner, with both players serving well in the upcoming games to set up a tie break where the Argentine opened a 5-0 advantage, looking good to send the encounter into a decider despite all the problems.
Serving at 6-2, Juan Martin sent a sharp forehand long to waste a set point and Federer erased the next two with winners, reducing the deficit and leveling the score at 6-6 following a massive forehand mistake from del Potro that would cost him dearly.
Roger's backhand endured all the efforts in the 13th point to secure another mini-break, sealing the deal when Juan Martin sprayed a backhand mistake to complete an escape and move through in straight sets.