Dubai: Roger Federer came up with a classy display to stay on course for a record sixth title with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over world number two and defending champion Novak Djokovic in an exciting semi-final of the Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open late on Friday.
Unfazed by a brief five-minute break due to passing drizzle midway through the second set, the Swiss ace suddenly raised his game to walk away with his 17th win in 32 career meetings between the two greats.
Of the pair’s matches against each other, 27 have come in the semi-final or final of a tournament.
This was Federer’s second final of the season after Brisbane, and that was followed by a semi-final at the Australian Open, where he lost to Rafael Nadal in straight sets.
Federer will meet last year’s finalist Tomas Berdych in Saturday’s final at 7pm.
The Czech Republic’s top player had earlier got the better of Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany 7-5, 7-5 in an hour and 29 minutes to make his second successive final in Dubai.
Berdych got the better of Federer in the semi-finals last year before losing to Djokovic in the final.
Federer was thrilled with his win, which denied Djokovic his 550th match victory.
The Serb had become the 40th player in ATP World Tour history to record 500 wins after he had defeated Grigor Dimitrov in the third round of the 2013 French Open.
Friday’s triumph took Federer further away at the top of the all-time list of winners with 936 wins against his name.
“There is a buzz out there tonight, and though I had a tough start I just could not let all my fans down,” Federer told a cheering capacity crowd.
“The crowd kept pushing me on and I knew I had to come up with an urgency to come to the net and things just worked out fine for me.”
After winning the opening set 6-3 with a lone break in the second game, Djokovic was left groping for answers to the Swiss maestro’s bag of tricks in the second.
The five-minute rain break seemed to go in favour of Federer as the Swiss broke Djokovic for 4-2 to finally serve out the set in 33 minutes.
The third was a breeze for Federer as he opened with a break and then held for an early 2-0 lead.
He broke his rival’s serve for a second time in the fifth game for 4-1 lead and secured the set and match when Djokovic netted a backhand volley to finish off an hour and 45 minutes of entertaining tennis.
Tomas Berdych bt Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-5, 7-5
Roger Federer bt Novak Djokovic 3-6, 6-3, 6-2
Order of Play (Saturday)
(5pm) Doubles final: Daniel Nestor/Nenad Zimonjic vs Rohan Bopanna/Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi OR Tomasz Bednarek/Lukas Dlouhy
(7pm) Singles final: Roger Federer vs Tomas Berdych