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Djokovic Closes On Dubai Three-Peat

Dubai, U.A.E.

Djokovic© Dubai Duty Free Tennis ChampionshipsNovak Djokovic will contest his 33rd tour-level final on Saturday evening.

World No. 3 Novak Djokovic will look to win a third straight Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title on Saturday, when he will meet Roger Federer in a repeat of the Australian Open semi-finals.

Djokovic dismissed Federer in straight sets in Melbourne four weeks ago, but does not feel it will give him the advantage going into Saturday’s clash. “It's only one match,” he said. “I lost maybe three times before that to him. So I don't think that he will think too much about that match. We know each other really well. We know each other's game.

“Mostly in the past three, four years we had matches in semis or finals. It's always high stakes and a big challenge. That's what it's all about. If you want to be the best, you have to win against the best.”

Djokovic improved to 19-2 at the ATP World Tour 500 hard-court tournament after he beat third seed Tomas Berdych 6-7(5), 6-2, 4-2. Berdych retired due to a left quadriceps injury. He now has a 6-1 record against Berdych.

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The Serbian is on a 13-match winning streak, which includes his recent triumph at the Australian Open (d. Murray), but actually described his win on Friday as one of his worst performances of the season. “I don't know how to explain today's match really. In one word: catastrophe,” declared Djokovic. “I think the match overall and my game, it was the worst match this year for me, worst performance. But I managed to get a win, so I guess that's what matters.”

On the hottest day of the tournament, the first set went with serve until the 12th game when Berdych created the first two break point opportunities of the match. With Djokovic serving at 5-6, 15/40, they were also two set point chances. Djokovic saved the first with an ace down the middle, then showcased superb defence in a long rally, before Berdych lashed a forehand into the net.

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Berdych won points against serve early in the tie-break and opened up a 6-3 lead. Djokovic saved two set points on serve, but a backhand return hit long gave Berdych the 67-minute opener 7-6(5). Berdych had hit eight aces and won 71 per cent of service points in the first set.

Djokovic turned the tables in the second set, securing two breaks of serve from four opportunities. Berdych committed 12 unforced errors in the 43-minute set. At the end of the set, Berdych was treated for his left quadriceps injury.

Djokovic continued to press in the third set and after breaking Berdych to 30 for a 4-2 lead, the Czech walked to the net to shake hands.

“I was just not able to serve, move to the sides, and just felt pain,” explained Berdych. “There was no chance to just play with this guy in the condition that I was feeling. I need to get healthy again and get to feel strong and be ready for another two very tough tournaments which are waiting for me in the States.”

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