A rematch, already? The stakes are different – the finals of an ATP 500 tournament vs. a Major semifinal – but the players are the same: Roger Federer will meet 2011 Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic in the finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships this weekend.
Roger was in awesome form vs. Richard Gasquet in the semis yesterday, taking out the semi-resurgent Frenchman 6-2, 7-5. You know Rog is feeling it when he’s hitting backhand winners against one of the best one-handed backhands in history (really, Richard’s is ridiculous.) Then again, playing Gasquet in the semis these days isn’t quite the same challenge as playing fellow Aussie Open semifinalist, Tomas Berdych. Novak struggled more against the Czech yesterday afternoon than he did a month ago in Melbourne, calling Friday’s match a “catastrophe” despite the win: 6-7(5), 6-2, 4-2. (Berdych retired with a left quadricep injury.)
“I don’t know how to explain today’s match really. In one word: catastrophe.” declared Djokovic (via ATP website). “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.”
I found the end of this interview interesting: Roger sets his place as squarely in the top 5. Apparently, Rog is okay with being just one of the guys now, instead of the Top Dog of the field. It’s comforting, in a way, to see Roger so confident but also so realistic about his place in the thick of it with Soderling, Murray, Nole and Rafa. I get the sense that he it’s a “whoever’s feeling it” moment in tennis, where the guys at the top feel like they all have a fair shot at the big ones – it’s not just one or two big shots (i.e. Rafa and Roger) hoovering up the mojo. Are we entering a more egalitarian era at the top of the game, with Roger and Rafa having their chances, but Nole and the rest taking some, too?
Roger admitted to feeling “very happy” about his performance versus Gasquet and seemed to be looking forward to a fight in the final vs. the guy who’s taken him out of the last two Major tournaments (ouch!). Here’s Rog on Nole (via ATP website):
“Maybe a bit of an up and down performance here this last week [from Djokovic], [but] again his class showed. He made it to another final. He’s obviously looking to get the hat-trick here; I hope to stop him and get my fifth. I’m excited about the match. I’m sure we’re going to see great rallies.”
Great rallies or a win? Federer is 13- 7 vs. Djokovic and has beaten him 3 of the last 5 times they’ve played – in London, Basel and Shanghai. Unfortunately for him, the other two times have been in last year’s US Open and this year’s Aussie Open semis. It’s like Federer vs. Murray, flipped.
In other weekend action, Juan Martin Del Potro is in his third straight semifinal this year, playing Mardy Fish on Saturday in Delray Beach. Kei Nishikori plays Janko Tipsarevic in the other semi.
In Acapulco, defending champ David Ferrer will play Nicolas Almagro in the finals. Almagro is playing in his third consecutive final and has the opportunity to be “the first player to win three of the four Latin American clay court tournaments in the same season.” (via the ATP)
On the women’s side, Gisela Dulko will play Spaniard Arantxa Parra Santonja in the Acapulco final. In Doha, Caroline Wozniacki faces Vera Zvonareva in the finals of the Qatar Ladies Open in Doha.