Dubai Flashback: Roger Federer defeats Ivan Ljubicic to win his third title

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In 2004, Roger Federer dominated the tennis world. In a year, the Swiss was still a talent to be reckoned with, winning 11 ATP titles and 81 of his 85 matches. Before to the clay season, the Swiss competed in six tournaments and won 32 of their 33 matches, losing only to Marat Safin in that wild Australian Open semifinal.

After a long string, Federer won in Doha, Rotterdam, Dubai, Indian Wells, and Miami. In four of those competitions, including three of the finals, Roger ran into his future mentor Ivan Ljubicic. At Doha and Rotterdam, Federer defeated Ljubicic, setting up another title match for February 27 in Dubai.

The Swiss won his third straight Dubai title with a 6-1, 6-7, 6-3 victory in two hours and sixteen minutes. A two-time defending champion got off to a rough start by defeating Juan Carlos Ferrero and Ivo Minar in the decisive tie break and holding onto two match points.

In order to qualify for his 33rd ATP final, Roger improved his game against Mikhail Youzhny and Andre Agassi. He outscored Ljubicic by over 20 points, dominating the opponent’s second serve, and thwarting five of seven break attempts.

Despite making a valiant effort, the Croat was unable to withstand the pressure applied by the Swiss on the opposing side. On the second serve return, Roger won 26 of 41 points and converted five of seven break chances. After his last defeat in Gstaad in July 2003, he managed the pace in sets he won and triumphed in the 16th consecutive ATP final!

Federer made fewer unforced errors and more winners. In the shortest and mid-range rallies, he gained the upper hand and overcame Ivan to become the only player to win three consecutive Dubai titles. The Swiss had to work hard right away.

In game three, he held off three break chances before sealing the victory with a drop shot to avoid suffering an instant loss. When Ljubicic’s backhand landed long to give Federer a 3-1 lead, he missed game opportunities and was broken.

In 2005, Roger Federer won his third straight Dubai championship.

After the opponent’s awful forehand in game six, the Swiss held in the following game to maintain their lead. A few minutes later, Roger forced a mistake to end the set, increasing his lead to 6-1 and hoping for more of the same in the remaining games.

At the start of the second set, Ivan blasted a backhand mistake, losing serve once more and bringing Roger closer to the finish line. In game three, the Croat held off another break point to keep the score within one break of level.

With a running backhand winner in the eighth game that Federer was unable to return, he gained confidence and broke back. Ivan saved a match point at 5-6 during the tie break in the first set. With a long return that prompted Roger’s error, he stole the tiebreaker 8-6.

The defending champion kept his composure and began the final with a clean slate. From a 40-0 down, he broke Ivan in the second game before blowing game points a little while later and dropping serve after a double fault. Federer won a 20-shot rally upon returning at 4-3 to secure the key break with a forehand winner.

After a service winner that moved him closer to winning the third straight Dubai title, Roger established a 5-3 lead and secured the deal with a hold at 15 a few minutes later.