It wasn’t vintage Roger Federer like yesterday, but against Tomas Berdych you often don’t have to be at 100% peak performance. And that’s what happened today in the final as Federer rallied to brush away Berdych 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 for his sixth title at his second home of Dubai.
Much like Friday, Federer again found himself in a hole early to Berdych who was, for the most part, simply overpowering Federer. Tomas took the first then leading 3-2 with a break in the second appeared to be in control and speeding to victory. That’s when Berdych mentally caved, something we’ve seen before from the Czech.
Federer seized upon the slippage and from there ran away with the match.
Roger wasn’t anywhere near as sharp nor as aggressive as he was in that scintillating win over Novak Djokovic on Friday, but he was solid enough to let Berdych implode. And Tomas did just that.
“I was happy I was able to use momentum, win that second set, and then it was a tough opening period in the third, wasting the Love-40 game on Tomas’ first service game,” said Federer. “Then saving break points myself. Anything could have happened there.
“Things definitely went my way out here tonight, but I have had a lot tougher matches in the last one and a half years, so this is nice to get a lucky break again.”
Federer’s win was also his first since Halle and the biggest – this is Dubai afterall – since the summer of 2012 when he won Wimbledon and Cincinnati.
So for Federer fans, this is excellent news. Not only is he contending and winning titles, he’s beating his rivals like Andy Murray, JW Tsonga in Australia and now Djokovic and Berdych this week.
The win over Berdych is already Federer’s 4th top 10 win of the season and 7th in his last five events. Part of the rebirth, he says, is the new bigger racquet is feeling better.
“I’m just happy that now it’s clear, I don’t have to think of it, and I can just play tennis,” Federer said about the larger racquet. “It’s not in the back of my mind anymore, Is this racquet good or not? I was convinced in practice, but then you hope that the results are going to follow and they did.
“When you can play that way, you’re more free, you have an open mind. That’s when you are more successful. I’m very happy.”
As for Berdych, well, more of the same. He’s got the game, we know, but between the ears he just can’t seem to get the job done. Up a set and a break, on a quick court and with Federer playing so-so, he’s got to finish it off, but mentally he broke down again.
And guys like Federer know that and as we saw took advantage.
“I would say many things [went wrong],” said Berdych who had won 11 straight matches coming in. “The match started pretty well. I had really many chances, and then I basically just gave him the game and that’s it.
“It’s very disappointing for me the way I handled that situation. I was in the better shape and playing really well and made my chances, but unfortunately I didn’t execute it in the end.”
With the win Federer moves ahead of John McEnroe at 78 titles in the Open Era. Ivan Lendl is next on the list with 94 (Connors is No. 1 with 109).
Looking ahead this month, obviously Nadal looms large but with Juan Martin Del Potro injured, Murray still on the mend and Djokovic having issues, it’s impossible not to put Federer among the top picks for Indian Wells and Miami. He’ll have to start off a little quicker and avoid getting down early (or late like he was against Stepanek), but the signs and game are there and he’s healthy. So this has the makings to be quite a ride.
Welcome to March Madness everyone.
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