Well, it’s as should be expected, considering the depleted field. Top seed Novak Djokovic will meet fourth seed (and world No. 14) David Ferrer in the final of the Dubai Tennis Championships on Saturday evening.
I watched Novak beat third-seed Gilles Simon today in three tight sets and boy, was it crap-tastic. For much of the match, Novak was spraying forehands wide, or worse, hitting them into the net – sometimes the ball would even bounce once on his side of the court before slamming into the net like a puck into a goal. The bum forehands and a few gym class overheads made the whole thing painful to watch. And of course there was the requisite complaining to the ump about his own fans, mumbling to his coach, staring at his HEAD racquet in disgust, etc. I half expected him to smash his stick to pieces during a changeover and pull out an old Wilson frame – I’m sure he wanted to. That said, Novak still found a way to win in the heat of the afternoon against a supremely dogged opponent, which has to count as a major physical victory for him (it was his first daytime match of the tournament.)
David Ferrer, on the other hand, easily beat Richard Gasquet, 6-2, 6-2 in the other semi of the day, and he seems to be playing close to his top form, ca. 2007. He’s exactly the kind of player that a depleted Djokovic does not want to face tomorrow – Iron Man fit, consistent as a ball machine and feeling confident.
Here are some highlights from today’s matches:
It’s going to be an interesting final – it’s the first of the year for both players and I think it’s a MUST WIN match for Nole. He’s had such a disappointing year so far for a No. 3 ranked player – that retirement to Andy Roddick in the quarters Down Under was the low point, and taking that fourth-consecutive loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga last week in Marseille couldn’t have done much for his confidence. Now he’s the lone big dog left in Dubai, which has been depleted by the withdrawals of Federer and Nadal and now yesterday’s retirement by Andy Murray, and he has to show the rest of the field that he’s still the guy to beat. It will be fun to see how he handles the pressure, especially if David Ferrer can make it a match. (I’m keeping an eye on Novak’s racquet for signs of a paint job.)
Click here for this weekend’s TV schedule, including Dubai, Acapulco and Delray.
Novak Photos: MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images