Dubai Duty Free has been very hermetic for years. There are mixed Top 10 players (six this year) with a group of much more lower ranked guys. Top 4 seeded players demolished their opponents in the quarterfinals. Berdych made a second final within two weeks after an impressive win over Federer in the semifinals (the Czech saved three match points in a 2nd set), but in the final met his toughest opponent – Novak Djokovic, who has extended his winning streak to 18 (28 out of the last 29). He won five matches in straight sets, but was forced to produce his best tennis in three sets of three different matches to avoid it (second sets against Bautista-Agut & Del Potro, and a 1st set of the final, in which he was *2:4 down). “I have been enjoying my time, always coming here with a big team, with family, friends,” said Djokovic. “Everybody has been welcomed. This generosity of the people and from the organization is always remembered. So this is definitely one of my favourite tournaments throughout the year. Winning it four times now is something that I definitely enjoy.” The Serb has now won 36 tournaments.
When Rafael Nadal announced that he would play 3 out of 4 tournaments of the Golden Swing, I expected his Latin journey would be finished with a final (in Acapulco) against Ferrer. And indeed it happened, but who could expect that Nadal would humiliate his compatriot? Ferrer entered the final having won 29 matches in a row in South America, 15 of them in Acapulco. Unfortunately, just like in the last Australian Open semifinal, Ferrer was educated that when the top guys are on the top of their games, he can’t do anything. Nadal needed just 65 minutes to capture his 52nd title. Nonetheless Ferrer was beaten twice more severely (losing 1-6 0-6 to Malisse & Kohlschreiber) “This was a great week for me and today I played exceptionally well, I dominated the game against the world No. 4 and couldn’t be happier, especially when I think where I am coming from,” said Nadal about the final. “Perhaps the conditions were in my favour but I feel it was maybe one of the best matches of my career.” The King of Clay, similarly to Djokovic, didn’t drop a set all week, but he was closer to lose it, because he faced a set point on serve in his semifinal match against Almagro. Nadal played in Acapulco for the first time since 2005, during the first visit eight years ago, also no-one got a set off him.
Because of increasing number of 28-draw tournaments, surprising results even in smaller tournaments become more and more a rarity. Therefore Delray Beach turned into a refreshing event when two players ranked outside the Top 100 advanced to the final (something like this didn’t happen since 2007!) # For 29-year-old Roger-Vasselin it was the first ATP final, he co-creates the third Open era duo of father & son to play finals at main-level tournaments (beside Phil/Taylor Dent and Vijay/Prakash Amritraj). Christophe Roger-Vasselin had lost two finals before his son was born… Ernests Gulbis became the first qualifier champion since Sydney 2012. The Latvian (3 titles, two in Delray Beach) a couple of times was close of being eliminated: 4 points away from defeat in the last qualifying match against Molchanov, 2 against Querrey (2R) and 5 against Haas (SF) – in that match he saved five mini-match points in two different game, on the last one the German missed a relatively easy overhead. Gulbis showed some guts also in the final when he saved a set point with a backhand winner at 4:5*. He’s been a Top 20 material for many years, but it’s tough to say whether it’s a time when he finally starts playing consistent tennis, it had seemed that would have happened twice before, and after a short period of consecutively good results, he suffered a slump. ”I feel really good about it and I just talked to my coach (Gunther Bresnik) and he’s happy, I’m happy, everybody is happy,” said Gulbis, who was ranked as low as No. 159 in October 2013. ”We didn’t think that it was going to happen so fast. My coach thought I wouldn’t go back into the top 100 until around April.” Now at the beginning of March he moves to No. 67.
S: (1)Novak Djokovic d. (3)Tomas Berdych 7-5, 6-3
D: M.Bhupathi/M.Llodra d. (3)R.Lindstedt/N.Zimonjic 7-6(6), 7-6(6)
S: (2)Rafael Nadal d. (1)David Ferrer 6-0, 6-2
D: L.Kubot/D.Marrero d. S.Bolelli/F.Fognini 7-5, 6-2
Delray Beach (250)
S: (q)Ernests Gulbis d. Edouard Roger-Vasselin 7-6(3), 6-3
D: (WC)J.Blake/J.Sock d. (1)M.Mirnyi/H.Tecau 6-4, 6-4
Choker of the week:
Sam Querrey, who led 4:0* in the 3rd set against Ernests Gulbis. The American was also two points away serving at 5:4 (30/15), he finished the match with two double faults in a row, and lost 4-6, 6-4, 6-7(4).
# XXI Century finals between two players outside the Top 100:
Mexico City 2000: Juan Ignacio Chela  d. Mariano Puerta  6-4, 7-6(4)
Newport 2000: Peter Wessels  d. Jens Knippschild  7-6(3), 6-3
San Marino 2000: Alex Calatrava  d. Sergi Bruguera  7-6(7), 1-6, 6-4
Palermo 2000: Olivier Rochus  d. Diego Nargiso  7-6(14), 6-1
Casablanca 2001: Guillermo Canas  d. Tommy Robredo  7-5, 6-2
Newport 2001: Neville Godwin  d. Martin Lee  6-1, 6-4
Tokyo 2002: Kenneth Carlsen  d. Magnus Norman  7-6(8), 6-3
Newport 2004: Greg Rusedski  d. Alexander Popp  7-6(5), 7-6(2)
Metz 2004: Jerome Haehnel  d. Richard Gasquet  7-6(9), 6-4
Newport 2006: Mark Philippoussis  def. Justin Gimelstob  6-3, 7-5
Houston 2007: Ivo Karlovic  d. Mariano Zabaleta  6-4, 6-1
Delray Beach 2013: Ernests Gulbis  d. Edouard Roger-Vasselin  7-6(3), 6-3
# 18 finals of this sort in the 90s, 11 in the 00s.
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