There was an element of revenge in Roger Federer’s title run last week in Dubai.
The Swiss veteran won his 100th career title at the Dubai Tennis Championships over the weekend, courtesy of a 6-4 6-4 win over Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.
The Greek rising star had pushed Federer in two tight, tough sets in their first ever meeting at the Hopman Cup in early January; two weeks later he upended the 20-time major champion at the Australian Open fourth round.
This time around in Dubai, Federer needed just 69 minutes to dismiss Tsitsipas.
“Maybe a little bit,” said Federer, when asked before the match if revenge was on his mind. “Obviously I was horribly disappointed and upset that I missed as many breakpoints as I did, had all the opportunities I had (at the Australian Open).
“That match kind of hurt in some ways.”
A round earlier in Dubai, Federer faced Borna Coric in the semifinals, having lost two of his three meetings to the young Croat in 2018.
Coric had steadily gotten the better of Federer throughout the year, too; after failing to capitalise on his 7-5 4-2 lead at Indian Wells, Coric turned the tables in the Halle final – winning in three sets – before beating Federer in straight sets in Shanghai.
This time around in Dubai, Federer needed just 67 minutes to brush Coric aside.
Federer revealed that he had been able to shrug off the two consecutive losses to Coric, due to conditions and other extenuating circumstances obscuring the contests.
“It’s hard to really exactly know how Borna plays. Maybe for him as well with me, because of all these difficult conditions,” he said.
“I thought Indian Wells was really difficult to play, really windy. In Halle, I was kind of tired maybe from playing Stuttgart, the finals in Halle. Halle is always tricky to play. Then Shanghai, it’s really fast conditions. He came out swinging. I just couldn’t really get into the match, and the match was over.
“I think honestly I was playing more the conditions than him tonight again. I think that maybe helped to erase any of the bad memories, if you like.”
Federer’s wins over both Coric and Tsitsipas, considering his form coming into the tournament, were resounding.
In the previous six months, he had suffered disappointing Grand Slam losses at Wimbledon (to Kevin Anderson in the quarters) and the US Open (to John Millman in the last 16) before another earlier-than-expected loss in Australia.
He also went a lukewarm 2-2 at the ATP Finals to end the 2018 season, falling in the semifinals to Alexander Zverev.
Roger Federer brushes Borna Coric aside 6-2 6-2 to move into the Dubai final and set up a big Australian Open rematch with Stefanos Tsitsipas. Some great signs for Federer today.
— Tumaini Carayol (@tumcarayol) March 1, 2019
Roger Federer up a set on Borna Coric, 6-2. 33 minutes.
That was probably Roger's best set in months, tbh, given the opponent.
— José Morgado (@josemorgado) March 1, 2019
He had won just one ATP title in the previous eight months before his triumph in Dubai.
“I just think I played the right way. Things happened fast. Best-of-three set tennis on a fast court against somebody like Stefanos who also likes to take the ball early. I tried to be very aggressive myself and it worked out,” Federer said following the final.
“I got off on a flyer in the beginning, never looked back. I just felt good in defense, good in offense, good on the serve. That’s a good combination to win.”
The title – and his level of play in his final two matches – was already impressive. Yet perhaps even more notable was the age differential between him and both Coric and Tsitsipas.
At 37 years of age, Federer is 15 years older than Coric, and a whopping 17 years Tsitsipas’ senior.
“I don’t know if Stefanos was born when I won my first title,” Federer joked.
Tsitsipas was born, but he was just two years of age when Federer lifted his first ATP trophy in Milan.
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