Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic saved three match points to stun five-time champion Roger Federer 3-6, 7-6 (10-8), 6-4 on Friday and set up the final with Novak Djokovic in the Dubai Open.
Federer had three match-winning opportunities in the second set tiebreaker but fumbled them all, allowing Berdych to level at a set each on his third set point.
The match went into the deciding set, where the Czech expanded an early lead into a 4-2 margin. Federer saved two match points in the ninth game before the Berdych fired his eighth ace for a match point and won on a final error from the Swiss after two hours and 19 minutes.
“It feels amazing as Roger is such a great player and he’s done so much. It came down to just a point or two and I was able to manage it better than he did,” said third-seeded Berdych.
“I’ve been working a lot on my game, especially my serve. I’m so happy to be in the final, but it doesn’t get any easier. There’s not much to say when you play Djokovic. I have to rest, prepare and start again tomorrow,” he added.
The win was the fifth for Wimbledon finalist Berdych from his last eight meetings with Federer, including their US Open quarter-final clash.
The defending champion Swiss world number two has not won a title since last August in Cincinnati. “Pity to lose that one, but Tomas did well to hang in there,” said Federer.
Djokovic in final
Djokovic beat a frustrated but fighting Juan Del Potro 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) in straight sets to reach the final.
The world number one, who lifted the trophy at the Aviation Club from 2009-11, is looking for a second trophy in 2013 after winning the Australian Open. His victory in one and three-quarter hours was his eighth over Argentine Del Potro against two defeats. The Serb top seed stands 12-0 this season and 27-3 in Dubai.
“I was very pleased with the performance overall and the way I handled myself in the tough moments,” said Djokovic. “Mentally I stayed tough and believed that I could go all the way and win in straight sets. I didn’t really allow myself to be negative. But it’s becoming a tradition in this tournament to drop a serve when I’m serving for a match. Hopefully it’s not going to happen another time tomorrow,” said Djokovic, who was playing the semi-finals for the sixth year in succession.
He leads Berdych 12-1, losing his only match in 2010.