In the first battle of 2015 between the ATP's No. 1 and No. 2, Roger Federer defeated Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic 6-3, 7-5 to successfully defend his title at the Dubai Championships. The win was Federer's record seventh title in Dubai, his second of the season and his 84th overall. In his first tournament since losing to Andreas Seppi in the third round of the Australian Open in January, Federer dominated the field. He did not lose a set in five matches and only twice did he lose four or more games in a single set.
Sunday's final marked the first time Djokovic and Federer have played since last fall when Federer prevailed in the semifinals of the Shanghai Masters. The two were supposed to contest the final match of the ATP season at the World Tour Finals, but Federer was forced to withdraw with a back injury. While Federer's rivalry with Rafael Nadal has defined the modern era, his rivalry with Djokovic may be just as compelling. The two have now played 37 times in their careers, with Federer holding a 20-17 edge after his Dubai win.
"I think it's really become a very nice rivalry," said Federer. "I think we play very nicely against each other, and it seems people like the way we play against each other. I don't think we have to adjust our games very much against each other, which I think is nice. We can just play our game, and then the better man wins."
The critical stat that defined Sunday's final was break point conversion. Federer earned two break points in the match and converted on both. Djokovic held seven and failed to convert one. He held two break points in the first set and another five in the tight second set, two of which were set points in the tenth game. Down 4-5, 15-40, Federer was able to save both set points and then broke Djokovic in the next game, despite the Serb holding a 40-love lead. Federer then saved another break point in his final service game to serve out the match and notch his first win over Djokovic in a final since Cincinnati in 2012.
"I think the first set belonged to me, whereas the second set belonged to him more," said Federer. "He created many more opportunities. I struggled to get into his service games more frequently. It seemed like the moment I wasn't serving great he created chances for himself and put a lot of pressure on me."
The quick conditions favored Federer's serve, which allowed him to serve his way out of trouble in the face of Djokovic's pressure. He fired 12 aces in the match and hit 37 winners to 35 unforced errors. Djokovic was able to muster just one ace, hitting 19 winners to 22 unforced errors.
Watch match point:
Over in Doha, No. 15 Lucie Safarova won the biggest title of her career, defeating Victoria Azarenka's 6-4, 6-3 to win the Qatar Open. The win was Safarova's first over Azarenka and earned her a sixth WTA title. She will rise to a career-high No. 11 on Monday.
Despite the loss, Azarenka will return to the Top 40. It was a strong week for the former No. 1, who is building steam nicely after an injury-addled 2014 season. This week she defeated Angelique Kerber, Elina Svitolina, Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams to advance to her first WTA final in over a year.
"It's been a long week for me," Azarenka said. "It's been a while since I had that many matches in a row. Sometimes the body needs to get back into that rhythm. It wasn't my best, but I tried my best."