Two weeks after Novak Djokovic was ousted in the semifinals in Rotterdam by Mikhail Youzhny, in the final of the Dubai Tennis Championships the defending champion avenged that loss in beating Youzhny 7-5, 5-7,6-3 for his first title of the year.
The final was played over two days because of rain. On Saturday, after cruising along on serve, Djokovic hit a bump. Following errors by Djokovic, with a forehand swing volley winner, Youzhny had breakpoint. The Russian converted when Djokovic’s forehand landed wide. However, after Novak erased a game point with a forehand winner for deuce, Mikhail dumped the next two strokes into the net leveling the set at 3 all. Subsequent to a routine hold, Djokovic earned double break point with a forehand crosscourt winner. When Youzhny netted a backhand, Djokovic took a 5-3 lead. However, serving for the set, Djokovic started with two miscues for 0-30. After producing a beautiful forehand up the line winner in a seemingly never-ending point which Youzhny had multiple opportunities to take; a fatigued Djokovic double faulted to stare at double break point. Courtesy of another error by Novak, Mikhail obtained the break to get back on serve. Serving to push the set to a tiebreaker, Youzhny sent a backhand long to go down break point. Then, the Russian misfired on a forehand volley to give Djokovic the set.
After Djokovic carried a rain interrupted first game, he capitalized on a error filled game by Mikhail to jump ahead 2-0. With Djokovic trying to consolidate, at 30-15, the match was postponed due to heavy downpour.
Today when the players returned, Djokovic promptly took a 3-0 edge. Although arduous, Youzhny maintained serve for 3-1. Sleeping on it did Youzhny well. After Djokovic began his game with a double fault, Youzhny produced a forehand up the line winner for double break point. The Russian got back on serve by crushing a backhand down the line. Despite struggling, Youzhny squared the set at 3 a piece. Serving at 3-4, Youzhny fought off break point to hold. The next game, Djokovic double faulted to donate a break point. With an overhead winner, Youzhny took a 5-4 advantage causing an angry Djokovic to destroy a racket. However serving for the set and ahead 30-15, after a backhand crosscourt pass winner by Djokovic, Youzhny committed two straight errors which permitted Djokovic to break back. Unfazed however, Youzhny baited Djokovic into errors and broke at love. Then, with a love service game, Youzhny send the match into a third set.
With a forehand long from Djokovic, Youzhny had break point in the first game. But, Djokovic refused to surrender another point and held for 1-0. Then, gifted a couple errors by Youzhny, Djokovic had two break points. With a strong forehand up the line, Djokovic got the backhand mistake from Youzhny for 2-0 and quickly consolidated for 3-0. Yet, just as in the last set, the fifth game proved crucial. As Djokovic served at 3-1, after multiple break opportunities, Youzhny scratched the deficit by enticing his rival into two straight forehand errors. Later, at 3 all, Youzhny arrived at double break point when Djokovic netted a forehand volley. Yet, Djokovic was saved by a string of errors from Youzhny. Perhaps with the previous game still on his mind, Youzhny floated another forehand long to give Djokovic two break chances. Djokovic went on to seize the break for 5-3. Afterwards, with a strong service game, Djokovic captured the championship.
Andy Murray, the third seed, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the fifth seed, fell to Janko Tipsarevic and Ivan Ljubicic in the second round respectively. Nikolay Davydenko, the fourth seed, retired in the third round after losing the first set to Michael Berrer. Also, Marin Cilic, world number ten, was defeated in the quarters. Roger Federer withdrew prior to the event’s start with an illness. Despite all these obstacles being eliminated early on, this was by no means a slam-dunk for the world number two.
After a routine first round win, Djokovic had to come back from a set down in each of the next rounds. In fact, in the semifinals Novak was in a set and a break hole against Marcos Baghdatis before turning the match around. Besides Federer from 2003-05, Djokovic is only the second person to defend his title in Dubai.