Roger Federer suffered one of his worst career losses on hard courts Wednesday falling to qualifier Evegeny Donskoy 3-6, 7-6(7), 7-6(5) in the second round of Dubai.
Federer led the unheralded Russian 5-2 in the second set tiebreaker and held three match points. Then after blowing a 5-2 lead in the third set – Donskoy served for the match at 6-5 – the Swiss blew a 5-1 final set breaker advantage, losing the last six points of the match.
“I had my chances. I should somehow close it out. Don’t know how it got away, but he did very well. It’s a rough one, for sure,” lamented Federer who was seeking an 8th Dubai title. “But tennis is this way. Margins are small. Fast court like here, you can’t find much rhythm. Next thing you know, you’re struggling.”
At a ranking of No. 116, Donskoy was the first player ranked outside of the Top 100 to beat Federer since 2000 when he lost to James Sekulov at Indianapolis.
“I just didn’t know Donskoy,” Federer said of the 26-year-old Russsian. “So many times I just didn’t know what his patterns were. I didn’t know what his preferences are. If he does hit a big forehand down the line, is that normal or is that just right now? Is he going to do that on big shots, big points or not?
“All that stuff got me a little bit tense, and I could never quite play freely, which is quite surprising, considering how I played in Australia.”
Donskoy picks up his first career Top 10 win in seven tries and moves on to Lucas Pouille.
“I surprised everyone today. I think whoever wins against Roger surprises himself,” said Donskoy. “I can say it’s a dream come true, but I don’t like this, because you always want to win, even if it’s Roger.”
Federer was playing his first event since winning the Australian Open. The 35-year-old will now get a few weeks off before Indian Wells.
“I just think it’s still the beginning of the comeback and have to take the positives out of playing again at a tournament where I feel I’m quite healthy and I’m happy I got over the injury I sustained at the Australian Open,” Federer said. “I just never really got going tonight and sort of felt heavy. But, look, those matches happen frequently, where you just have to somehow find a way to come through. Tonight I just didn’t. I was convinced that if I came through tonight I was going to feel better tomorrow. It’s OK.”
Just before Federer took the court, Andy Murray rolled crushing Guillermo Garcia Lopez 6-2, 6-0. He’ll now face Philipp Kohlschreiber in the quarterfinals tomorrow.
“It was way better than how I played at the beginning of the year, that’s for sure,” stated Murray. “Playing aggressive, feeling more solid, when I’m in position to dictate the points, I’m doing it, moving forward.
“I hit my forehand very well in the last couple of matches. I served better today. It’s been a good start. Obviously matches will get tougher, but I’m much happier with how I’m playing.”
Robin Haase upset Tomas Berdych in three. The Dutchmen will face Stan Wawrinka-conqueror Damir Dzumher. And Gael Monfils, a winner in three over Dan Evans, meets Fernando Verdasco after the Spaniard beat countryman Roberto Bautista Agut, alsi in three.
THURSDAY DUBAI SCHEDULE
CENTRE COURT start 3:00 pm
R. Haase (NED) vs D. Dzumhur (BIH)
F. Verdasco (ESP) vs  G. Monfils (FRA)
Not Before 7:00 pm
 A. Murray (GBR) vs P. Kohlschreiber (GER)
[Q] E. Donskoy (RUS) vs  L. Pouille (FRA)
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