STELLAR CAREER:Spanish among top seeds
ROGER Federer swatted aside Andy Murray 7-5 6-4 to win the Dubai Championships on Saturday, the Swiss maestro’s 72nd tour title, as he abandoned the baseline to dominate from the net.
The 16-times grand slam winner may no longer be favourite for the top prizes but few can match his longevity or dedication on the gruelling men’s tour and the 30-year-old claimed his fifth Dubai title without dropping a set all week.
Third-seeded Murray went into Saturday’s final with an 8-6 winning record against number two seed Federer, although the Swiss has won both of their grand slam encounters.
The Briton too often comes up short in the big matches against the sport’s elite despite his world number four ranking, one place behind the Swiss.
Murray, 24, did beat world number one Novak Djokovic on Friday to reach the final and gain revenge for his semi-final defeat by the Serb in January’s Australian Open.
But he was strangely lacklustre against Federer and struggled to get his service going with his first serve percentage dipping from a modest 58 in his opening four service games to a lamentable 38 over the next five.
Federer, in response, switched tactics to no longer hug the baseline and instead prowled the net at every opportunity on both his and Murray’s serve.
He broke the Briton at 5-5 in the first set and again early in the second to take a seemingly decisive 3-1 lead but the Briton produced two brilliant lobs to square the set at 3-3.
Federer remained unfazed by his opponent’s fightback and attacked Murray’s second serve to force the Briton to net a backhand for a decisive 5-4 lead.
Serving for the match, Federer hit a series of stinging forehands into the left side of the court to earn match point and sealed victory with a blistering winner past a subdued Murray.
At 3-2 down in the first set, Federer had netted a backhand to give Murray two break points but the Swiss had won 58 successive service games going into the final and he was nerveless, forcing Murray into a long backhand and then a scuffed forehand into the net to eventually hold.
At 5-5, the Briton hit a double fault as Federer went 0-40 up for three break points, his first of the match. Murray saved all three, the best when he came to the net to play a backhand volley winner past a flat-footed Federer.
But the Swiss was not to be denied, pounding a fierce forehand to Murray at the net that the Briton got his racket on but could not control to take a 6-5 lead, Federer clinching the opening set as Murray hit a backhand wide.