Roger Federer was the dominant figure in men’s tennis between 2004-2007, winning an incredible 42 ATP titles and losing just 24 matches. The Swiss couldn’t follow the same pace in 2008, though, pushed to the limits by the new generation led by Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray and finally losing world no. 1 position in August after four and a half years at the top. Novak Djokovic dethroned him a the Australian Open. At the same time, Andy Murray did that in Dubai, beating Roger 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 55 minutes in what was a very unusual first-round encounter! Namely, Andy was ranked 11th, which shows how strong Dubai was that year, unable to earn the seeded spot despite standing just outside the top-10! It was their third meeting and the second win for the 20-year-old Briton, who never faced a break chance in the entire encounter, sticking to his plan and overpowering Roger in the crucial moments.
The Swiss fought well in the first set (came from a 5-2 down in the tie break) but couldn’t stay on the same level with his rival in the following two, losing serve once in each to hit the exit door at one of his favorite tournaments where he won four titles in the last five years. Andy served at only 55% but managed to defend his second serve nicely, untouchable after landing the first serve in and winning 48 out of 53 points! The youngster outplayed Roger in the shortest and mid-range exchanges, while the Swiss had a slim advantage in the longer rallies (in theory, it should have been the other way around) that couldn’t keep him in contention for longer. It also marked Federer’s earliest defeat since Indian Wells 2007, and he wasn’t particularly happy about it, especially with Andy’s defensive style of play:
“I don’t think he has changed his game a whole lot since the first time I played him, and I thought he would have done,” said Federer. “He is going to have to grind it very hard in the next few years if he is going to play this way. He stands way behind the court. You have to do much running, and he tends to wait for the mistakes of his opponent. I gave him the mistakes, but overall, in a 15-year career, you want to look to win a point more often rather than wait for the other guy to miss. Who knows, he might surprise us all.”
Roger Federer lost to Andy Murray in Dubai 2008 opening round.
They needed just over 25 minutes to complete the first ten games, with some excellent hitting on both sides and no chances for the returners. The set went into a tie break where Andy built a 5-2 lead before Roger climbed back to 5-5 after a forehand error from his young opponent. The Swiss saved a set point at 5-6 with a service winner and hit another for his first set point. He seized it with a solid forehand attack that Murray failed to control, eager to break Andy’s rhythm as soon as possible in set number two and deliver that finishing stroke. Federer reached deuce on the return in game three, but Andy avoided further troubles after Roger’s two errors, which proved very costly. Murray created his first break point at 3-2 and blasted a crosscourt forehand winner to gain the lead and move 4-2 in front.
Hold at love gave him full control over the set, bringing it home with a service winner in game nine for 6-3 and momentum ahead of the decider. Roger was far from his best and had to save two break points at the start of the final set to remain in contention, desperately needing a few efficient return games. The Swiss netted an easy forehand that could have given him the first break chance in game two, and Andy held after two deuces to stay competitive. The Briton made a decisive move in game five when he stole Roger’s serve at love for a 3-2 advantage and the opportunity to serve for the victory in game ten. Andy completed his triumph in the best possible manner, hitting four service winners to emerge as a winner and score his second straight win over the world no. 1!
Tennis – Dubai had a rock-solid field in 2008, with two players from the top-11 facing in the first round!