Dubai, United Arab Emirates (4E Sports) – Fourth seed Roger Federer defeated top seed Novak Djokovic for the first time in 18 months, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, Friday to earn a spot in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships final.
Federer, a five-time former titlist in the event, used his backhand with precision and backed up his serves with net approaches to beat Djokovic in one hour and 46 minutes.
Federer, who had not beaten Djokovic since the final of the 2012 Western & Southern Open, denied the Serbian the 550th match win of his career. Federer leads Djokovic 17-15 in their head-to-head clash.
The 32-year-old Federer will now attempt to capture his 78th tour-level trophy Saturday against third seed and last year’s runner-up Tomas Berdych.
Federer, who lost to Berdych in three sets in the 2013 Dubai semi-finals, leads the Czech 11-6 in their match-ups.
Djokovic hit 10 winners to take the first set in 35 minutes before rain started to fall when the Serbian was serving at 2-3, 0/30 in the second set.
Play resumed a few minutes later and Federer broke Djokovic to 30 for a 4-2 lead. He won 93 percent of his first service points in the second set.
Djokovic gifted Federer a service break in the first game of the decider, when he committed two backhand errors. Federer recovered from 15/40 in the next game to take a 2-0 lead, when Djokovic hit a double fault. Federer broke Djokovic once again for a 4-1 lead after coming through a seven-minute game.
It is the first time that Federer has lost the first set against Djokovic and rallied to win.
The 26-year-old Djokovic was attempting to win his first ATP World Tour title of the season. He surrendered his Australian Open crown in the quarter-finals, against eventual champion Stanislas Wawrinka, last month.
Earlier, Berdych booked a spot in the final after beating Philipp Kohlschreiber, 7-5, 7-5, in the other semifinal pairing.
On the women’s side, third seed Klara Zakopalova ousted top seed Carla Suarez-Navarro, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, to book a spot in the final of the Brazil Tennis Cup.
For the title, Zakopalova will play second seed Garbine Muguruza Blanco, who defeated Yaroslava Shvedova, 6-2, 6-3.