Former world number one and second seed Roger Federer lived to the heightened pre-tournament hype winning his eighth Dubai crown and taking his career tally to a historic 100th title with a smooth 6-4, 6-4 win over Greek youngster Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, on Saturday.
Egged on by a packed centre court, the 37-year-old Swiss master was at work for an hour and nine minutes in a re-play of their fourth round match at the Australian Open, which Tsitsipas had won in four and launch himself into super-stardom.
A further bonus will come his way when Monday’s ATP rankings will project the Swiss climbing by two spots into No.5 and well on his way to try and emulate Jimmy Connors’s record of 109 titles. Ivan Lendl is third with 94 titles, while Rafael Nadal is fourth with 80 and John McEnroe in fifth with 77, the legendary Rod Laver in sixth with 74 and Novak Djokovic in seventh with 73 crowns.
Roger Federer returns the ball to Stefanos Tsitsipas during the final. Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman/Gulf News
During the past decade and a half, Dubai has been treated to an outpouring of tennis talent from the Swiss ace’s Wilson racquet, and the crowd in turn has embraced him as one of their own. Besides Federer, Novak Djokovic is the only other player to win a hat-trick in Dubai with his four titles in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013.
Shaikh Hasher Bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, President, Tennis Emirates (TE) was joined by Alison Lee, Executive Vice President, ATP Tour, Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO, Dubai Duty Free, Ramesh Cidambi, COO, Dubai Duty Free and Salah Tahlak, Executive Vice President, Corporate Services and Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and Tournament Director in handing over the trophy to Dubai’s latest champion.
Federer received a winner’s cheque of $565,635 (Dhs 2.08 million), while Tsitsipas – a quarter-finalist on debut last year and a champion last Sunday at the Marseille Open – walked away with the second best prize of $283,880.
“For me this is a dream come true today,” Federer told spectators on centre court after the epic final.
“I am so delighted and so happy tonight to share such a special moment with such an awesome crowd. An eighth title is truly special to me as eight is my special lucky number,” he added.
Federer was also assured of the future of the sport with stars such as Tsitsipas coming in to challenge the older guard. “These are the future legends and hall of famers of our sport. I am convinced tennis is in safe hands,” Federer acknowledged.
Like in his semi-final against Borna Coric, Federer was in command from the start and broke his 20-year-old opponent in the very first game to go 2-0 clear. The 37-year-old finally saved two break points to serve out the opening set 6-4 in 36 minutes.
A view of the packed Dubai Tennis Stadium during the final. Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman /Gulf News
The second set was more calculative and endearing as Federer waited patiently till the opportunity came along in the ninth game to eventually serve out set and match 6-4 in 33 minutes to throw his arms in the air in disbelief.
“I am sure he [Federer] was more prepare for me this time,” Tsitsipas smiled.
“I have grown idolizing him and watching him on television, and now to play against the same idol is such a great feeling for me personally,” he added.
Singles final: Roger Federer bt Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 6-4
Doubles final: Ram/Joe Salisbury bt Ben McLachlan/Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 (4), 6-3.
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