We’ll have our first big superstar showdown in a non-Slam tournament of the season tomorrow when former No. 1s Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic collide in the Dubai semifinals. Between the two, Federer and Djokovic have combined to win nine titles in Dubai including the last five.
What makes this match-up extra intriguing is the coaching rivalry. Federer of course now has Stefan Edberg in his box while for the first time when they meet Djokovic will have Boris Becker.
Head-to-head, Federer leads by a slim 16-15 margin but Djokovic, who at 26 is six years younger than Roger, has won the last three (they’s split two Dubai matches). And coming into this one, given their recent history, their results and the age difference, Novak’s the favorite here.
However Federer’s clearly been playing better than he was in their last meeting won by Djokovic in a sloppy three sets at the ATP Finals. Under Edberg, Roger’s been much more aggressive, more fine tuned with his game as we saw in Australia in wins over JW Tsonga and Andy Murray. And that troubled back of his is no longer causing him trouble.
So health-wise, both seem to be in perfect shape which should make for a great match.
“We know each other very well, and we’ve played each other everywhere and [on] all the surfaces, you name it,” Federer said of the rivalry. “I think we always play the match-up actually very good, because we play explosive, aggressive tennis, so there is always some shot-making going on. I’m looking forward to the match. One match, best of three sets on a court like this, it’s a bit of ‘let’s see what happens’, anyway. We both know that.”
Earlier today, after a rocky win over Radek Stepanek, Federer Swiss blew out Lukas Rosol 6-2, 6-2 while Djokovic earned a walkover from an ill Mikhail Youzhny.
“He is in the semis, he’s already played two matches, he’s been here long enough for preparing, and he’s fit enough for anything anyway,” Federer said of Djokovic’s walkover. “Every match you can get away from is a good one.
“For me, it was important also probably not to be out there for three hours. Then it would have been a disadvantage. But I think we’re back on even terms for tomorrow.”
I would agree, the day off for Novak shouldn’t be a problem. What will be the key I think is the serve and the return. On the quick courts whoever wins that battle should win the match. The thing is, Federer’s will likely get the better of the serve while Djokovic is the stronger returner.
So there’s not much to choose here, but i shall.
Even though Djokovic is the tournament’s defending champion, Dubai is Roger’s home away from home. Still, there’s a reason Djokovic’s is ranked No. 2 and Federer’s No. 8. The Serb, right now, is just the better player so I’ll take him in three sets here.
In the first semi, Tomas Berdych, who manhandled JW Tsonga 6-4, 6-3 in his quarter meets Phil Kohlschreiber. The big Czech Berdych is following up that Australian Open semi with a very strong February. He just won Rotterdam and he’s playing well again this week. And I think he’ll take down Phil as well.
Kohlschreiber collected his 300th career win defeat Malek Jazeri en route to the semis. Like Berdych, he also hasn’t been tested yet or lost a set, but Berdych, who’s 7-1 against the German, is a big big step up from the Tunisian, Seppi or de Bakker!
Later tonight, Andy Murray is back in action in Acapulco. It’s been another trying week for Murray who struggled early in both wins so far, and now he’ll get Gilles Simon on those transformed hardcourt in Mexico.
Coming off that back surgery, the expectations have been understandably low for the Wimbledon champ, but with Indian Wells and Miami fast approaching it’s getting close to time for Murray to find that next gear, assuming he still has it.
Tennis Channel should have coverage later (around 10pm ET) of Murray-Simon then will have the live broadcast of the Dubai semis starting at 10am ET.
FRIDAY DUBAI SCHEDULE
CENTRE COURT start 2:30 pm
 D Nestor (CAN) / N Zimonjic (SRB) vs D Brands (GER) / F Mayer (GER)
Not Before 5:00 pm
 T Berdych (CZE) vs  P Kohlschreiber (GER)
Not Before 7:00 pm
 N Djokovic (SRB) vs  R Federer (SUI)
T Bednarek (POL) / L Dlouhy (CZE) vs  R Bopanna (IND) / A Qureshi (PAK)
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