Djokovic Faces Youzhny in Dubai tennis final

Defending champion Novak Djokovic was given a mighty scare by an inspired Cypriot on Friday evening.

By Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Sat 27 Feb 2010, 1:09 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 8:55 AM

But the world number two eventually managed to reach the final of the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships.

Marcos Baghdatis, the 2006 Australian Open runner-up, made Djokovic, the 2008 Australian Open champion, felt the heat on Centre Court with some magnificent tennis in the first set of the second semifinal on Friday evening. But Djokovic hit back with some solid shots as he eventually won the semifinal clash 6-7 6-3 6-4. .

In the final, Djokovic will take on former Dubai runner-up Mikhail Youzhny.

Fascinating battle

Displaying that never-say-die spirit with which he once won an epic Davis Cup match for Russia, Mikhail Youzhny hurt Austrian giant-killer Jurgen Melzer on Centre Court.

The world number 15 played some mesmerising tennis as he reached the final with a 7-5 7-6 (7-4) victory in the first singles semifinal at the Dubai Tennis Stadium.

The match may have ended in straight sets, but those who saw the two players fight for each point will always remember it as one of the most fascinating tennis battles ever seen here in Dubai.

It was tennis of the highest quality as the two brave players went for their shots defying the unforgiving sun and a strong wind. Playing shots was never easy in such conditions and yet both hit some unbelievable winners.

When the first set began, it was difficult to tell who was actually playing better. Youzhny, the 2007 Dubai runner-up, with his booming serves and ferocious ground-strokes, was winning points on his serves with remarkable ease. Melzer, fresh from his stunning victory in the quarter-finals over world number 9 and Australian Open semifinalist, Marin Cilic, brought his left-handed variety to the court. It was quite a contest.

Until the 10th game of the first set, it was basically a serving contest. Both players showed remarkable composure as they played the pressure points fearlessly. Getting those huge first serves in, they kept going for the kill. It wasn’t really a fist fight, but power mattered to the players on both sides of the net who grew up admiring one of the most graceful players ever — Stefan Edberg.

The ‘Ice-berg’ would have been proud of the way Mikhail played the most important point of the first set. It was, after all, a set that could have gone either way.

Youzhny, facing the set point on his serve, got a huge first serve in. Melzer had no answers to his brilliance as the Russian made it 5-5.

Ironically, the Austrian world number 31 felt the heat in the very next game. He was down love-40. But the semifinalist at the Zagreb ATP event was not in the mood to give up. He fought and fought. Getting the big first serves in, he kept coming to the net to play those crisp volleys.

He saved two break points, much to the delight of the Centre Court crowd. But it was then that the Russian played the most stunning winner of the match. With an exquisite lob, he caught the Austrian on the wrong foot. Melzer knew where the ball would land. He never bothered to look back! Forget his about serve, it was as if Melzer’s heart was just broken.

Youzhny kept his cool and won the set by holding his own serve.

The second set began and so did the attempts of Melzer to unsettle a red-hot rival. Credit must be given to the 28-year-old Melzer though for not losing his focus even after he lost his serve in the first set.

Melzer again got his serve going in the second set, but that was not the only weapon he had. The Austrian tried everything and even started to play his favourite back-hand drop shots. But unfortunately for the Austrian, the Russian rose to every challenge and his mesmerizing lobs did the trick almost every time.

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