By Matt Cronin
If all the world’s tournaments were played on fast surfaces, just imagine how many overall titles Roger Federer would have – likely a good deal more than the 72 he has now after winning his fifth title in Dubai with an eye-raising 7-5, 6-4 win over Andy Murray.
The victory was vintage Federer – full of change of paces, sleight of hands, brutish serves, heavy forehands and a high variety of one-handed backhands. He charged the net, leapt for overheads, threw in drop shot return of serves and moved like the tempest in a teapot Federer of old. Murray by no means played his best and was unusually erratic off his favored backhand wing, but the victory for the 16-time Grand Slam champion was no fluke – the 30-year-old has now won five of his past seven tournaments since reaching the semis of the 2011 U.S. Open and all those victories have come on quick courts. But four of those crowns were indoors (Basel, the Paris Masters, the ATP Finals and 2012 Rotterdam) and this one was outdoors, his first title on outdoor cement since 2010 Doha – some 14 months ago.
“Against Andy I knew I had to stay aggressive but not overly – you don’t want to overhit,” Federer said. “I think I found the right balance out there tonight. There is no substitute to confidence. I’m defending much better than I was in the middle of last year where I felt like I couldn’t come out of tough defensive positions anymore. I was able to turn it around. Now, I just have to keep it up.”
Murray, 24, did stun No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semis, so overall it was a good week, but it would have been much more impressive had he been able to take down the great Swiss for the ninth time in 15 matches, but he was out-thought and out-played. Score one victory for coach Paul Annacone over coach Ivan Lendl, and those were hard to come by when Annacone was trying to chip and charge against the baseline master Lendl during the 1980s. Lendl was 6-0 against the dyed in the wool net rusher Annacone, but Annacone played him tough, taking Lendl to five sets in Miami in the first round in 1987 and in their last match at Queens on grass in 1989, extending the Czech native to 7-5 in the third.
Federer will never be a dogged net charger, but he does volley better than any member of the Big 4.