Novak nails down first title of 2009
Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:29
Novak Djokovic will edge closer to notable absentees Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at the top of the world rankings on the back of his 12th career title at the Dubai Open. The world No.3 comfortably overcame David Ferrer 7-5 6-3 in the final.
Having survived a semi-final marathon in 100-degree temperatures against Gilles Simon the day before, Djokovic produced a stoic performance to grind the Spaniard down in what could be a taster of what is to come when the Davis Cup holders face Serbia next weekend.
With the gusty weather dropping fine sand on the court, Ferrer found himself doing most of the running, while Djokovic looked much more composed and in control.
That said, he made hard work of the first set, letting slip leads at 4-2 and 5-3. But while the Spaniard looked to have done enough to take it to a tie-break, a disappointing final game handed Djokovic the set.
“I made some major changes to rackets, which was quite risky. But I took responsibility” – Djokovic
It still remained to be seen whether Ferrer might be able to take advantage of Djokovic’s exhausting semi-final, but the Serb played a brilliant second point to take the final game and kept Ferrer under pressure in his opening service game of the second set, breaking Ferrer for the fourth time in the match for a 2-0 lead.
Djokovic consolidated to lead 4-1 – but serving at 40-15 for a 5-2, he faltered once more. His first serve deserted him and Ferrer pounced, bludgeoning forehands to break back. It was a brief respite, however, as Ferrer failed to capitalise on the break back.
Instead he double faulted to go 3-5 down, and Djokovic closed out the match with a spectacular finish – an ace which had been called a fault, only for the decision to be reversed by HawkEye.
“It’s a special night for me,” Djokovic said afterwards, “but it’s more than that. This win in Dubai is going to give me a lot of confidence for the rest of the season.”
The 2008 Australian Open champion has got off to a sluggish start this season, with many linking it with his decision to switch rackets in the close-season.
“I have not started the year the way I wanted,” admitted the Serb. “I made some major changes to rackets, which was quite risky. But I took responsibility, and that’s what I did.”
“As the season is going on I feel more comfortable with the racket, more comfortable on the court. I’ve got to release the pressure and play tennis like I have in the first part of 2008, and if I do I will be more successful.”
But when asked if he had something to prove after the criticism he received at the Australian Open, where he retired with heat exhaustion against Andy Roddick in the quarter-finals, Djokovic simply answered: “No.”
“Everyone has a right to what they say,” he continued. “Of course there is criticism – it’s not possible that everyone likes you, but I am trying to stay focused on the right path.”
And that focus will take Djokovic to Benidorm next week, where there’s every chance the two may meet again, with a Davis Cup rubber on the line.
“That will be very different,” said Djokovic. “Here I had a great crowd, with plenty of Serbians. There he will have 15,000 Spaniards supporting him. He will be the favourite.”