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Djokovic Achieves Dubai Hat-Trick

Dubai, U.A.E.

Novak Djokovic© Dubai Duty Free Tennis ChampionshipsNovak Djokovic won his 20th tour-level title.

World No. 3 Novak Djokovic won the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships for the third year in a row on Saturday as he defeated top seed Roger Federer 6-3, 6-3 in the final of the ATP World Tour 500 hard-court tennis tournament. He became the sixth active player to win 20 tour-level titles (20-13 finals record).

The Serbian also joins four-time former champion Federer as the only players to have won three successive titles in Dubai and improved to a 15-match winning streak at the tournament. He defeated David Ferrer in the 2009 final and Mikhail Youzhny in last year’s championship match.

The 23-year-old Djokovic has been arguably the man to beat on the ATP World Tour in the past two months. Since reaching the semi-finals (l. to Federer) at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in November, the Belgrade native has gone on a career-best 14-match unbeaten run. He led Serbia to victory in the Davis Cup final in December before opening the 2011 season by winning his second Grand Slam championship at the Australian Open (d. Murray).

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“I have this feeling in my head, and it's really important to know for me that I can perform this well,” said Djokovic. “This match has probably been one of the best that I played this year. I want to keep it up, definitely. I feel physically well, fit, mentally motivated to do even more coming up to Indian Wells and Miami where I haven't done well in the last years.

“Any time I win against Roger it's a great success because he's such a great player. We all know how mentally strong of a player he is. To be able to win against Roger in straight sets as I did tonight is incredible, but I want to keep on going. I know that I have qualities to do even more, and that's what I want.”

Djokovic came into his 21st clash with Federer with the confidence of having beaten the Swiss just over four weeks ago in the semi-finals of the Australian Open, but it was Federer who looked in better shape ahead of the final, with Djokovic having termed his own semi-final performance against Tomas Berdych a “catastrophe”.

It was a much improved performance from Djokovic in the final, though, as he quickly signalled his intent by breaking Federer’s serve in the third game of the match. The second seed was sublime on serve throughout the opener, relinquishing just four points, and the pressure told on Federer as he succumbed again in the ninth game.

Federer, who had been guilty of too many unforced errors in the first set, stepped up and produced tighter tennis in the second set and was rewarded with a break of serve in the third game. However, the Swiss was unable to maintain his lead as Djokovic’s impressive defensive skills paid dividends and he drew an overhead error from Federer on break point in the sixth game.

From there Djokovic quickly pulled away as Federer again lapsed into inconsistency on the backhand wing. A mistake from the Swiss cost him his serve in the eighth game and Djokovic raced through his final service game to clinch victory in 71 minutes.

“I guess I rose to the occasion,” assessed Djokovic. “I was aware of the challenge that is expecting me on the court, and I was aware of the fact that I need to be on top of my game in order to beat Roger. I was serving really well, especially the first set, holding my serve except that one game when I got broken, confidently through throughout the whole match. Just the perfect performance overall.”

The 29-year-old Federer was bidding for his second ATP World Tour title of the season and the 68th of his career. He has been on a superb run of form in the past six months, winning titles at Stockholm, Basel, the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals and Doha, and was philosophical in defeat to Djokovic.

“I think Novak played well,” he said. “[It was] obviously [a] disappointing end as well to the match. I guess you can't win them all. I played so well in Doha in the finals, in London in the finals, in Basel in the finals. I guess I had to mess one up. It's a pity, but, look, Novak played great.

“I definitely feel he's playing well. I thought he was already playing well at the end of last year. We had a couple of real close ones. This one has been one of the rather disappointing matches for me against him. I can't play great every time either. So it's been a tough one, but I'm not too disappointed. It's another final for me. I tried tonight. Just didn't really happen for me.”

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