Tue, Mar 01, 2005 - Page 19 News List

Federer wins Dubai for his 16th ATP tournament victory

AP , DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Top-ranked Roger Federer defeated Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia 6-1, 6-7 (6), 6-3 and won a third straight Dubai Open title on Sunday.

Federer extended his ATP record streak of finals wins to 16, including all three this year against Ljubicic. The Swiss star beat him in Doha last month, and in Rotterdam last weekend.

"I hope we can keep this rivalry going," said Federer. "It is good for Ivan, good to see a different face on the other side of the net."

The final was Ljubicic's fourth this year, and third in three weeks.

"I am getting really sick of this guy," Ljubicic joked. "But I guess he likes the same tournament as me, so I will have to keep seeing him. It is the first time I have done something like this. It seems I have to be careful choosing my tournaments in the future."

Federer improved his record to 20-1 this year. He's won 36 of his last 37 matches.

He fended off three break points in the third game, then broke Ljubicic in the fourth and sixth games for the first set.

"I felt like I had a grip this time," Ljubicic said, "but suddenly I felt like my racket was loose and the ball was flying a little bit too much. With Roger, you cannot afford to relax even for a second. I tried to concentrate in the beginning of the second just to regroup. I broke him back."

The Swiss made another great start to the second set, breaking an erratic Ljubicic in the opening game and racing to 3-1.

But the Croat hit a brilliant backhand winner past a charging Federer, and broke to level at 4-4.

In the tiebreak, Federer had a match point at 6-5 but netted a forehand, and Ljubicic won it 8-6 with a deep return that Federer also netted.

Federer came back forcefully in the third set, breaking Ljubicic in the second game after the Croat was 40-0. But the Swiss double-faulted on break point in the next game to leave the match level.

Just when it seemed headed for another tiebreaker, Federer broke Ljubicic with a backhand winner for 5-3, and served out the 2-hour, 16-minute match for his 25th career title.

"For me it is really positive to actually twice in two weeks have a chance to beat Roger," said the Croat. "It gives a big boost to my confidence and makes me believe that I belong up there with the best.

"If I play a final every week, I am going to be absolutely happy. It's not like if you lose four finals you get depressed, especially if you lose against Roger. To take Roger to three sets twice is a great achievement. But I am looking forward to beating him."

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