The World Tour Finals final that wasn’t will become a reality in title match of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Saturday. As many expected and eagerly anticipated when the week began, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer will be squaring off for the 37th time in their careers.
Federer is leading the head-to-head series 19-17, including 14-13 on hard courts. Djokovic had a chance even their records at 18-18 last fall in the Shanghai semifinals, but Federer cruised to a 6-4, 6-4 victory. The 33-year-old Swiss was later forced to withdraw due to a back injury at the O2 in London. Djokovic is 11-6 in 17 encounters since the start of the 2011 season; Federer is 2-1 against the Serb in Dubai after prevailing 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in last year’s semifinals.
Federer’s Dubai success is well-documented. He is 46-5 lifetime at the event with six titles. The world No. 2 has been in cruise control this time around while taking out Mikhail Youzhny, Fernando Verdasco, and Borna Coric without the loss of a set.
“He was just way too good for me,” Coric admitted. “I was feeling so rushed. I didn’t have any time to play my gameplan. I was just trying to hold in the rally as long as I could.”
Djokovic went on a mental walkabout midway through what was once a dominant performance against Tomas Berdych on Friday, but he regrouped for a 6-0, 5-7, 6-4 victory. The top seed previously disposed of Vasek Pospisil, Andrey Golubev, and Marsel Ilhan. Djokovic is 13-1 for his 2015 campaign with another Australian Open title to his credit.
“When you play Roger, it’s always a great challenge,” Djokovic assured. “If you want to win you have to play your best tennis, especially against Roger in the final of any event, but here particularly. Because I feel like this is the kind of a surface and conditions that it suits his game the best.”
The crowd support suits Federer, too, as he obviously spends plenty of time in Dubai throughout each year. Having the fans on his opponent’s side has often adversely affected Djokovic, just as it did at times earlier this season in Melbourne. It may not be the deciding factor in Saturday’s outcome, but it also won’t help the world No. 1. Federer, who as been the best player this week, has served at no less than 63 percent in all four of his matches. More of the same could see him through to the title.
Pick: Federer in 3