Seventeen time Grand Slam champion and world #2 Roger Federer captured his 7th career Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship title today in defeating world #1 Novak Djokovic 6-3, 7-5. It was the 37th career meeting between the two with Federer extending his all time series lead 20-17, and today’s meeting also holding special significance as he registered his 9000th career ace while becoming only the 4th man in the history of the game to have accomplished the feat (Goran Ivanisevic, Ivo Karlovic, and Andy Roddick being the others). The 7 career titles in Dubai now equals the 7 Wimbledon Championships and the 7 Gerry Weber titles already to his credit.
One of the oldest sayings in the game among those who play it is ‘If you’ve got a serve, you’ve got a chance”, and rarely has it proven to be more true than it was this afternoon as the two multiple time Grand Slam champions (25 combined) who know each others games so well took to the court for their first encounter in a championship match since their epic five set showdown at Wimbledon this past July where Djokovic eventually prevailed. And while Djokovic’s return of serve and defensive skills are extremely well known and considered to be the best in the world by all accounts, Federer’s serve has been something of an understated weapon throughout much of his career as his success with it has been largely based on location rather than power as well as his ability to mix the flat serve with the kick serve off a nearly identical ball toss. Today however that understated weapon was highlighted and on full display, first while serving at 2-3 in the second set as he hit a sliding serve out wide on the deuce court in the first point of the game that Djokovic was unable to reach and registered career ace number 9000, and then again in subsequent service games later in the set as he served his way out of 15-40 deficits at 3-4 and again at 4-5 while facing two sets points against him. All told, Federer notched 11 aces and several more unreturnable serves with a first serve points won percentage of 80% en route to the title. For Djokovic’s part, he failed to convert on all 7 break chances he had throughout the course of the match while having his own serve broken twice in the only two opportunities he afforded Federer on the afternoon.
After the match during an on court interview a reporter drew attention to Federer’s rare accomplishment, and in typical fashion he downplayed the significance while offering a joking reply of “That’s just how many I’ve hit on the tour, so you can imagine how many I’d hit as a junior!”. With today’s victory and his second title of 2015 now in the books (Brisbane), Federer will next head to Indian Wells, CA for the BNP Paribas Open along with Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and every other top ATP player in the world as well as all of the top ranked WTA stars – including Serena Williams who will be competing there for the first time since 2001, beginning on March 12th.